Possible death of brutal Al-Shabaab leader in US missile attack may see group splinter into bigger terror threat, say experts
Ahmed Abdi Godane ruled with an iron fist and has no obvious successors
A hail of US missiles aimed at the leader of Somalia’s al-Shabaab militants may have left a gaping hole in the group’s leadership, and potentially the biggest challenge to its unity since it emerged as a fighting force eight years ago.
Washington said it was still checking to see whether its laser-guided attack on Monday killed Ahmed Abdi Godane, who aligned al-Shabaab with al-Qa’ida and authorised the group’s deadly raid on a Nairobi shopping mall last year.
A US government source said that it is looking into a tweet from what it believed was a legitimate al-Shabaab account confirming the death.
If confirmed, experts say there is a real chance the death of the man who ruled the group with an iron fist and left no obvious successors would trigger infighting or the formation of smaller, potentially more dangerous splinter movements.
“If... he is in fact dead, it is a game changer in many ways for al-Shabaab,” said Abdi Aynte, director of the Heritage Institute for Policy Studies in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
“What is likely to happen is a struggle for power,” he said. Fragmentation was also possible in the absence of a leader with Godane’s experience and ruthless approach to dissent.
In 2008, Godane’s predecessor, Aden Hashi Ayro, was killed in a similar US raid.
“This is a strategic ideology which cannot be destroyed by the elimination of an individual,” said Hussein Biihi, an elder in the Lower Shabelle region south of Mogadishu, where al-Shabaab remain a potent force despite a military offensive by African and Somali troops to recapture towns and territory.
But a new leader may not emerge so swiftly this time.
That is partly because Godane scrapped the shura council which picked him, seeing it as an apparent threat. Using tactics more akin to an African warlord, he also killed rivals or dissenting voices.
“There is not a clear, designated crown prince inside al-Shabaab,” said Stig Jarle Hansen, a Norwegian expert who has written a book on African jihadists, saying Godane’s “solo game” has made the group’s task of finding a new leader more difficult.
“If [Godane] is dead, that is serious for al-Shabaab, partly because of his leadership structure,” he said.
- 1 Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
- 3 Ann Summers survey reveals the UK's favourite sex position
- 4 Jaden Smith wears gender fluid dress to high school prom with Hunger Games actress
- 5 How much sex should I be having?
Ed Miliband returns to the backbenches but it's all a bit awkward as he tries to avoid eye-contact with fellow Labour MPs
Man on naked bike ride gets ejected after becoming aroused
Charles Kennedy 1959-2015: A gifted, compassionate politician whose career was cut short by the 'demon drink' - latest news
Ayyan Ali: Pakistan's top model now appears in the courtroom rather than on the catwalk
Isis tortures 14-year-old Syrian boy and films it in graphic video for 'propaganda purposes'
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination
Migrants in Kos: Photos show real tragedy after Brits abroad complain of 'awkward' holidays
British tourists complain that impoverished boat migrants are making holidays 'awkward' in Kos
Michael Gove determined to scrap the Human Rights Act – even if Scotland retains it
Threat to scrap Human Rights Act could see UK follow Nazi example, warns UN official
Why this year's general election was the most unfair in Britain's history
£24000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: These refrigeration specialists...
£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an operational role and...
£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working within the workshop of ...
£20000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This specialist high tech compa...