A top al Qaeda commander and successor of the late Harun Fazul as the regional leader was assassinated in Mogadishu in a power struggle that had gripped the terror group. Bilal El
Berjawi, a British national of Lebanese descent was killed in a car bomb in
Elasha Biyaha, 15 kilometres south of Mogadishu on Saturday.
The killing is suspected to be an
inside job following intensified divisions within the ranks of top Al-Shabaab
and Al-Qaeda leaders. In the recent
past, three rival factions have emerged within the terrorist ranks in Somalia
pitting local versus foreign dominated militants. It is believed that there is
a faction led by one Omar Hammami alias Abu Mansur Al-Ameriki who is allied to
Ahmed Aw Abdi Godane (Alias Abu Zubeyr)- Al-Shabaab de-facto leader, the
Al-Qaeda linked faction led by Berjawi and the Kenyan group led by Ahmed Iman
Ali who has links with Muslim Youth Council (MYC) of Majengo.
Berjawi took over the leadership of
Al-Qaeda in Somalia following the killing of senior Al-Qaeda leader, Harun
Fazul on 11 June, 2011 in a Mogadishu road block by Transitional
Federal Government forces. Fazul succeeded Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan who was
killed by US special commandos on 14 September, 2009. The car bombing that led to the
killing of Berjawi is suspected to be the work of top Al-Shabaab leaders
including the overall Emir of the group, Ahmed Godane alias Abu Zubeyr.
Al-Qaeda led by Berjawi and Al-Shabaab
Somalia wing opposed to Godane’s leadership have in the recent past made
several attempts to replace Godane as the overall Al-Shabaab leader but foreign
fighters led by Al-Ameriki came to his rescue threatening to pull out foreign foreigners
allied to them out of Somalia and cutting off external funding to the terror
group. Berjawi and local Somali Al-Shabaab leaders including Mukhtar Robow,
Fuad Shongole, Ali Dheere and Hassan Dahir Aweys have condemned his leadership
of being high handed and resisting change.
In early December, 2011, Al-Shabaab
militia group leaders opposed to Godane held a week long meeting in Baidoa,
Southern Somalia where they proposed leadership change, change of name to
Imaarah Islamiyah (Islamic Authority) and reduction of external influence
(foreign fighters) in the management of the group. Ahmed Godane was the only
Al-Shabaab leader who did not attend the meeting and sent a message opposing
the resolutions of the meeting.
Berjawi’s came to Somalia in 2006 and
fought alongside the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) the predecessor of Al-Shabaab
militia group. He was involved in the formation of the Kenyan cell of Al-Qaeda.
He controlled vast resources channeled through him to Somalia that gave his
faction massive influence and an advantage over other group fighting to take
control of the terror group.
The death of Berjawi has further
intensified divisions within the ranks of Al-Shabaab and foreign fighters in
Somalia and the East Africa region following claims that Godane and top
Al-Shabaab leaders were either directly involved in the planning and execution
of Berjawi or provided vital information that led to his killing.
The Al-Shabaab websites of Somalimemo
and their twitter account of HSM Press Office has confirmed the killing of
Berjawi but claimed that a US drone attack was involved in his killing. Multiple sources on the ground have
reported that the car bombing was as a result of an improvised explosive device
(IED) or land mine planted on the path of the vehicle and not a drone attack as
claimed by the militia group.