Thursday, October 23, 2014

NEW ARTICLE: The Life and Death of Al-Shabab Leader Ahmed Godane


















On the night of Monday, September 1, 2014, a U.S. airstrike targeted two vehicles near a wooded area of Sablale district in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia, an area used by the Somali militant group al-Shabab to train its military forces. The strike killed Ahmed Godane, the elusive amir of al-Shabab, upon whom the United States had placed a $7 million bounty in June 2012. The U.S. government officially confirmed Godane’s death on September 5, 2014.

Godane’s death, significant in itself, comes at a particularly sensitive time for al-Shabab. The group is facing a renewed offensive, Operation Indian Ocean, by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali federal government that aims to capture Baraawe, the last major port town that the insurgents still control. The internal dynamics within al-Shabab itself remain the subject of intense debate and speculation, although there is little hard, verifiable information about the current state within the group’s multiple leadership tiers, from the top level to the regional and district-level administrators and field commanders. The death of Godane, who only succeeded in consolidating his control of the group by killing or driving out his major critics and potential rivals last summer, has led to renewed predictions that al-Shabab will split into different factions bickering over power and control of the group’s remaining manpower, territories, and resources. Al-Shabab announced Godane’s immediate successor, Ahmad Umar, within a week of his death and a day after the Pentagon confirmed that al-Shabab’s leader had been killed. Known as Abu Ubayda, Umar reportedly played an instrumental leadership role in the purge of dissidents from the group in 2013.
This article examines Godane’s tenure as al-Shabab’s amir, paying particular attention to both the group’s period of expansion, followed by stalemate and beginnings of its decline, the strategic outmaneuvering of his critics and rivals, and the internal purge he and his loyalists enacted in 2013. It finds that Godane was a charismatic and multifaceted leader who demonstrated both organizational capabilities and media savvy, enabling him to oversee al-Shabab’s territorial and governing expansion between 2008 and 2010. His desire for sole power within al-Shabab, however, ultimately shattered the group’s internal cohesion and led a number of founding leaders and prominent members to break ranks and leave. The future of the group after his death will depend on the internal cohesiveness of the post-June 2013 version of al-Shabab.

READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE HERE.

Friday, May 30, 2014

IN PICTURES & VIDEO: Abu Hurayra al-Amriki, American "Martyrdom-seeker" for Jabhat al-Nusra


Abu Hurayra al-Amriki (the American) was killed participating in a joint attack launched by the Syrian jihadi-rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra in coordination with the Falcons of al-Sham Brigades on a Syrian government checkpoint in Idlib.  He was killed after detonating a 16-ton vehicle bomb on May 25, 2014.  He took his nom de guerre from Abu Hurayra ('Abd al-Rahman bin Sakhr al-Azdi), one of the prophet Muhammad's companions (Sahaba), as accepted by Sunnis, and a prolific transmitter of Sunni hadith.

His death was announced on May 27 by Abu Sulayman al-Muhajir, an Australian member of Jabhat al-Nusra's shari'a committee via his Twitter account as well as in an official communiqué from Jabhat al-Nusra.



JABHAT AL-NUSRA STATEMENT:

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم



جبهة النصرة – البيان رقم (492)

الهجوم على مراكز الجيش النصيري في جبل الأربعين بـ 4 عمليات استشهادية في إدلب


الحمد لله الذي وعد المجاهدين في سبيله الحسنى وزيادة، وشرع لنا تحريض المؤمنين عبادة، والصلاة والسلام على من بُعث بالسيف بين يدي الساعة، وعلى آله وصحبه أولي النهى والسيادة، أمَّا بعد؛

جهز مجاهدو جبهة النصرة بالاشتراك مع ألوية صقور الشام (الجبهة الإسلامية) ما استطاعوا من عدة وعتاد لدك النظام النصيري في قمة الأربعين والتي تعدُّ آخر القمم التي يسيطر عليها النظام في إدلب فأعدوا 3 سيارات مفخخة مجهزة بأطنان من المتفجرات ومدرعة BMP محملة بـ 6 أطنان.
وفي الساعة السادسة من صباح يوم الأحد 26 من رجب 1435هـ، الموافق 25/ 5/ 2014 انطلق الأخ أبو هريرة الأمريكي -تقبله الله- بشاحنته المفخخة بـ 16 طنًا ليدكّ بها مطعم الفنار وهو أحد أهم نقاط تمركز الجيش النصيري في الجبل، لينطلق بعده الأخ أبو تراب المهاجر -تقبله الله- لدك مبنى القيادة في شارع الغار بشاحنته المحملة بـ 6 طن، ثم ينطلق الأخ دادا الله المهاجر -تقبله الله- ليدك حاجز الشامي بشاحنة تزن 7 طن من المتفجرات. أما العملية الرابعة فكانت تزن 1.5 طن وانطلق بها الأخ أبو الريش الأنصاري ليدك مبنى العرم فاستطاع ركنها -بفضل الله- وانحاز إلى إخوانه.
وبعد تنفيذ العمليات الأربع بدأت مجموعات الاقتحام تتقدم باتجاه أهدافها وما لبث المجاهدون أن مشَّطوا مبنى الفنار والبنايات الشرقية ومبنى السبع طوابق ومبنى الخمس طوابق وأحكموا الحصار على مبنى القصر الكويتي حيث قُتل عدد كبير من جنود الجيش النصيري، ولكن نتيجة القصف العنيف الذي تعرضت له المنطقة من معسكر القرميد ومعسكر المسطومة وحاجز جسر (أريحا - إدلب) بالدبابات والمدافع والرشاشات الثقيلة، فاضطر الإخوة إلى الانحياز عن المناطق التي تم تمشيطها وذلك نتيجة تهدمها بشكل شبه كامل جراء العملية الاستشهادية الأولى والقصف العنيف من النظام.
وبعد الانحياز بدأ دك المنطقة من قبل المجاهدين بالهاونات والرشاشات الثقيلة ومدفع جهنم ويستمر الرباط إلى لحظة كتابة هذا البيان على جميع نقاط التماس مع العدو النصيري.


{ وَاللهُ غَالِبٌ عَلَى أَمْرِهِ وَلَكِنَّ أَكْثَرَ النَّاسِ لَا يَعْلَمُونَ }


(( جَبْهَةُ النُّصْرَة ))
|| مؤسسة المنارة البيضاء للإنتاج الإعلامي ||


لا تنسونا من صالح دعائكم


والحمد لله ربِّ العالمين


تاريخ نشر البيان: يوم الثلاثاء 28 من رجب 1435 للهجرة، الموافق 27/ 5/ 

2014

Friday, October 25, 2013

New Article in the October 2013 CTC Sentinel: "The Nairobi Attack and Al-Shabab's Media Strategy"


I have a new article in this month's issue of the CTC Sentinel, published by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point.  The article, "The Nairobi Attack and Al-Shabab's Media Strategy," focuses on analyzing the insurgents' media operations strategy during and after the Westgate attack/siege.  After a brief overview of the attack and its timeline, the article proceeds with an analysis of Al-Shabab's media strategy and its evolution in historical context.  Continuities and shifts in its media operations receive particular attention, as does the importance to Al-Shabab of its key Kenyan ally, the Muslim Youth Center (recently re-branded reportedly as "Al-Hijra" or "The Emigration").

I look at both "traditional" forms of media operations artifacts such as radio/audio interviews, written press statements and communiqués, and insurgent produced and/or released photographs and videos as well as newer forms of media messaging, such as micro-blogging on Twitter via Al-Shabab's official Twitter accounts in English, Somali, and Arabic.

The introduction: 

"After carrying out a bold attack inside the upscale Westgate Mall in Nairobi in September 2013, the Somali militant group al-Shabab succeeded in recapturing the media spotlight. This was in large part due to the nature of the attack, its duration, the difficulty in resecuring the mall, the number of casualties, and al-Shabab’s aggressive media campaign during and immediately after the attack.

From al-Shabab’s perspective, the attack on Westgate Mall was a media triumph, particularly coming in the midst of a growing rift among jihadists both inside and outside Somalia regarding the consolidation of power by the group’s amir, Ahmed “Mukhtar Abu al-Zubayr” Godane. The attack also followed a year in which al-Shabab lost control of significant amounts of territory in Somalia, most importantly major urban and economic centers such as the cities of Baidoa and Kismayo.

This article examines al-Shabab’s media strategy during and immediately after the Westgate Mall attack, both via micro-blogging on Twitter through its various accounts as well as more traditional media formats such as audio statements from the group’s leadership. The article also puts the group’s media operations for the Westgate attack in historical context by comparing and contrasting them to al-Shabab’s past media campaigns. Finally, the article concludes with an assessment of al-Shabab’s current state of health and the potential for more spectacular acts of violence, in large part as political and media spectacles designed to capture public attention. It finds that al-Shabab, despite facing increased political and military setbacks, remains adept at executing audacious attacks designed to attract the maximum amount of media attention. Its media operatives are still able to skillfully exploit its enemies’ mistakes on the battlefield and in the information operations war, as well as manipulating the news cycle by inserting sensationalist claims. It also finds that al-Shabab has maintained a great deal of continuity with its messaging toward foreign state actors active in Somalia, despite the insurgents’ shifting fortunes on the ground."

Read the rest at the CTC Sentinel's web site.