Harakat al-Shabab Claims Support from ‘Ayr Clan Leaders
November 4, 2011 2 Comments
The Somali insurgent movement Harakat al-Shabab al-Mujahideen (Movement of the Warrior-Youth, Al-Shabab) released a statement yesterday that claimed the movement has garnered the support of a number of leaders from the ‘Ayr sub-clan, part of the Habir-Gidir group within the larger Hawiye clan confederation. The announcement comes in the midst of a major Kenyan military incursion into southern Somalia and a renewed insurgent military campaign in Mogadishu against African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops.
Hussein ‘Ali Fiidow (far left), Hasan Dahir Aweys (second from right), and ‘Ali Mahamoud Rage (far right)
The meeting between ‘Ayr clan leaders and Al-Shabab officials was held yesterday in Lower Shabelle, the district just to the south of Banaadir, the district where Mogadishu is located. The specific clan leaders present are not named. Major Al-Shabab leaders, however, were present including Hasan Dahir Aweys, who himself is from the Habir-Gidir/’Ayr sub-clan, the movement’s spokesman ‘Ali Mahamoud Rage (also known as ‘Ali Dheere), the insurgent governor of Banaadir Muhammad Hasan ‘Umar Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman, and Hussein ‘Ali Fiidow, a representative from Al-Shabab’s Political and Regional Office and current head of its Emergency Relief Committee for the drought. The ‘Ayr and Al-Shabab leaders, the statement said, agreed on the necessity to defend the country and Islam from outside attack by “Crusader” forces, presumably by AMISOM and Kenya, both backed by the U.S. government. Fiidow called for the clans to unite in their support of the struggle against these forces and said that all differences between them would be resolved if they used “God’s book” (Qur’an) and the traditions (Sunnah) of the Prophet Muhammad. Aweys role, if any, in negotiating the deal between ‘Ayr leaders and Al-Shabab is not discussed in the statement. Another prominent Al-Shabab leader who came from the ‘Ayr sub-clan was the movement’s late founder, Adan Hashi Farah ” ‘Ayro.”
Many Habir Gidir/’Ayr leaders supported the Islamic Courts Union (ICU), a diverse umbrella organization of local shari’a courts and their militias that brought a brief period of relative stability to central and southern Somalia in 2006. The ICU was overthrown in December 2006/January 2007 by a full-scale Ethiopian military invasion of the country, supported by the U.S. government.
Muhammad Hasan ‘Umar Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman
The support of the ‘Ayr leaders, of whom 19 were present at a ceremony, if true, may be related to the recent Kenyan incursion, which is seeming more like a major military operation with no set timetable that is becoming an occupation of significant parts of southern Somalia than a simple incursion in response to kidnappings Kenya blames on Al-Shabab, which has denied responsibility, as the operation was initially described by the Kenyan government. Foreign involvement has in the past been openly opposed by the majority of Somalis, whether it be in the ranks of the TFG, the AMISOM military presence, Ethiopia, or non-Somali foreign fighters who have joined Al-Shabab. A prolonged, open-ended Kenyan military presence will likely be perceived as an occupation, which could potentially provide the Somali insurgent movement with a rallying call for support in a period when it is becoming increasingly unpopular on the ground because of its black-and-white, harsh interpretation of Islamic law (shari’a) and heavy taxation. Open support by important Somali clans, such as the ‘Ayr, is a significant development, if Al-Shabab’s claims are true. Kenya’s incursion, which the country’s defense minister says has no clear timetable, could, ironically, end up benefiting Al-Shabab, the very movement that it is supposed to cripple.