Al-Qa’ida Representative Delivers Humanitarian Aid to Harakat al-Shabab Refugee Camp in Lower Shabelle
October 14, 2011 5 Comments
-Christopher Anzalone (Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University)
Harakat al-Shabab’s chief spokesman, ‘Ali Mahamoud Rage (left), with the alleged “Al-Qa’ida” representative Abu ‘Abdullah al-Muahjir
Yesterday, at a carefully choreographed media event, the Somali Islamist-insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of the Warrior-Youth, “Al-Shabaab,” Xarada Mujaahidiinta Al-Shabaab) welcomed in a significant amount of humanitarian aid for victims of the severe drought afflicting the country and the Horn of Africa at large. The aid was delivered by a young man, “Abu ‘Abdullah al-Muhajir” (The Emigrant), who claimed to represent the “Al-Qa’ida organization (Tanzim Qa’idat al-Jihad, literally “the Jihad base organization”), to the Al-Yasir refugee camp in the region of Lower Shabelle, immediately to the south of the capital city of Mogadishu. Al-Yasir has become Harakat al-Shabab’s flagship refugee relief center, the place at which it stages much of its aid distribution, much of which is carefully recorded by the insurgent’s own media office or by sympathetic or affiliated media outlets.
In an official press statement issued today by Harakat Al-Shabab’s Al-Kata’ib (The Brigades) Media Foundation, the aid delivered to Al-Yasir by Abu ‘Abdullah al-Muhajir included rice, dates, cooking oil, 4,000 packets of powdered milk, medicines, and 1,500 copies of the Qur’an and 1,500 books of du’a (prayers of supplication to God) for teaching and religious purposes, and $17,000 in local currency. The relief mission was dubbed the “Charitable Campaign of the Martyr Bin Laden for the Relief of Those Affected by the Drought” and professionally-printed banners announced that “Tanzim al-Qa’ida” was the donor.
Abu ‘Abdullah al-Muhajir was accompanied by Harakat al-Shabab’s chief spokesman, ‘Ali Mahamoud Rage, who is also known as ‘Ali Dheere. Al-Muhajir extolled the life and career of Usama bin Laden, who he said had sacrificed his wealth and ultimately his life for “the Muslims” in the “path of jihad.” Rage praised the donation and said that it was accepted because of the “shared monotheism” of Harakat al-Shabab and Al-Qa’ida Central (AQC). Al-Muhajir urged Muslims outside of Somalia to donate aid to assist Somalis suffering from the worst famine to hit the Horn of Africa in 60 years.
Harakat al-Shabab’s affinity for Bin Laden and other Al-Qa’ida ideologues is well known and not something that the movement’s leaders have attempted to hide. However, yesterday’s delivery of aid by al-Muhajir is the most public acknowledgment by the insurgents of the presence of alleged Al-Qa’ida operatives in Somalia. Al-Muhajir seems to be a fluent English speaker, based on poor quality audio of his short speech at Al-Yasir. He wore a kaffiyeh scarf over his face and nothing but his eyes were visible. His voice, in my opinion based on the audio, is different from that of Omar “Abu Mansur al-Amriki” Hammami, the American Harakat al-Shabab member, though the two have similar lanky builds. In a video produced by Harakat al-Shabab’s media office and released in the late summer of 2008, the late AQC East Africa operative Saleh ‘Ali Saleh al-Nabhani urged Muslims from outside Somalia, particularly those in Sudan and Yemen, to join insurgent ranks.
The exact meaning of this public unveiling of a continued AQC presence in Somalia is currently unclear. It is telling that Harakat al-Shabab leaders have apparently decided to maintain a separate identity, despite talks of unity through belief in monotheism (Tawhid), from “AQ” in Somalia. The relief delivery was, according to banners at Al-Yasir, “coordinated by Harakat al-Shabab” but from “AQ.”
I discuss Al-Yasir camp and its place in Harakat al-Shabab’s media campaign and famine relief efforts in a forthcoming article on the insurgent movement, which should be published by the end of the month. I will also be following this development in future posts here at Al-Wasat. It remains to be seen, for example, if AQC itself will announce the aid delivery in its own statement.
*All photographs in this post were released by Harakat al-Shabab’s media office*