Somalia’s Al-Shabaab May Have Replaced Leader, Stratfor Says

Al-Shabaab, the Somali militants that pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda, may have appointed a new leader following its withdrawal from the capital, Mogadishu, Strategic Forecasting Inc. said.

Ibrahim Haji Mead replaced Ahmad Abdi Godane as head of the rebel group, the Austin, Texas-based intelligence group said in an e-mailed note today, citing unidentified Somali media. The promotion of Mead, who is also known as Ibrahim al-Afghani after fighting in Afghanistan and Kashmir, hasn’t been confirmed, Stratfor said, citing a person it didn’t identify.

Al-Shabaab pulled its fighters out of Mogadishu on Aug. 6 following a series of military defeats inflicted by Somali government forces with the aid of African Union peacekeepers. The militant group has waged a four-year campaign to remove Sheikh Sharif’s Western-backed administration and controls most of southern and central Somalia.

The withdrawal, seen by some members of al-Shabaab as a defeat, may have been blamed on Godane, whose leadership has been questioned previously, Stratfor said. Godane, also known as Abu Zubayr, has a transnational jihadist ideology and is opposed by factions within the rebel group who have a nationalist agenda, it said.

“Elements within the group, especially those with more nationalist ideologies, have grown increasingly critical since September 2010, when a failed offensive on Mogadishu left an estimated hundreds of militants dead,” it said.

Somalia has been mired in a civil war for two decades and hasn’t had a functioning central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.