A Kenyan militant leader who commands 500 Kenyan youths in Somalia has pledged allegiance to al-Shabab chief Abu Zubeyr, also known as Godane. The announcement follows a series of military defeats for al-Shabab, which once controlled nearly all of southern and central Somalia. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf reports from Nairobi.
In a 22-minute audio message posted on al-Shabab’s website, Ahmed Iman Ali announced his allegiance to Abu Zubeyr and said his militia will fight under Zubeyr’s command.
“I, Ahmed Iman Ali, I give allegiance to my beloved leader Abu Zubeyr,” he said. “I promise to listen and take orders from you in the fight against the invaders. Am under your command and for better or worse, we will always be under your command.”
The announcement comes after a string of defeats for al-Shabab in the face of a concerted military offensive by multi-national forces in Somalia. African Union forces have pushed the Islamist militants out of the capital, Mogadishu, while the group is also facing pressure from Ethiopian forces in central Somalia and Kenyan forces in the south. Al-Shabab is also dealing with power struggles among its top leaders.
In his message, Ali said he will not be the kind of leader who fuels argument and wrangles in the group — unless someone shows signs of betraying their course. He urged Abu Zubeyr not to give up the fight against foreign forces.
“We would like to remind our leader Abu Zubeyr,” he said, “in this war you should not give up, we are with you shoulder to shoulder, till we make sure we have weakened and finished them (the non-believers) until they respect Islam and Muslims in the world.”
Ahmed Iman Ali was the one-time chairman of the Muslim Youth Center (MYC) in the Kenyan city of Majengo. According to a report by United Nations monitors, he openly used the organization to recruit for al-Shabab and to facilitate the recruits’ travel to Somalia for training, after which the fighters were active in both Kenya and Somalia.
Kenya’s deputy police spokesman, Charles Owino, told VOA that police have launched a manhunt in Majengo in connection with a church bombing in Nairobi Sunday that killed one person and wounded 16.