MSA Intel

The Somali-based al Qaeda affiliate al-Shabaab named a new leader this weekend after a U.S. airstrike successfully targeted and killed its former chief, Ahmed Abdi Godane. The airstrike also reportedly killed several other senior al-Shabaab members at a rebel training camp 105 miles south of Mogadishu. Godane’s death was confirmed on Friday by U.S. officials, and prompted al-Shabaab to unanimously select Abu Ubeid Ahmed Omar as their new leader. Omar is believed to be operating under a nom de guerre, and U.S. officials are investigating his true identity. Rebel commander Abu Mohammed announced the leadership changes, while reiterating al-Shabaab’s alignment with al Qaeda. Mohammed also warned of revenge attacks following the airstrike.

MSA's Research and Intelligence Analysis (RIA) Group has been monitoring this situation closely and has identified the following implications:

  • Godane’s death is considered a significant loss to al-Shabaab, as the group had expanded its reach and officially aligned with al Qaeda under his leadership. 

  • Godane himself publicly claimed responsibility for the September 2013 attack at the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, which left 67 people dead. 

  • He also served as the group’s spiritual leader and was considered al-Shabaab’s head of planning. 

  • Resentment had been building under Godane’s leadership, as some members wanted al-Shabaab to return to its local focus of establishing an Islamic State is Somalia instead of turning its agenda abroad. 

  • This could potentially cause friction within the group under Omar, or even prompt al-Shabaab’s fragmentation into splinter groups.

In two separate attacks today, bombs hit a convoy of African Union troops and another convoy of police and national security forces. The blasts occurred within an hour of each other on the same road southwest of Mogadishu and killed at least 12 civilians. The attacks are believed to have been in revenge for Godane’s death, and additional retaliatory strikes are expected. Somalia’s armed forces have been placed on high alert and are preparing for potential attacks against hospitals and schools.




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