Bloody rivalry erupts between Al-Shabab and Daesh in Somalia

Armed Al-Shabab fighters on pickup trucks prepare to travel into the city just outside Mogadishu. (AP)
Updated 07 December 2018

Bloody rivalry erupts between Al-Shabab and Daesh in Somalia

  • Alarmed by Al-Shabab’s deadly attacks, the Daesh-linked group has expanded its own assassination campaign

NAIROBI: A bloody rivalry has emerged between extremist groups in Somalia as the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabab hunts upstart fighters allied to Daesh, who have begun demanding protection payments from major businesses, officials tell The Associated Press.
The rivalry supports some observers’ suspicions that Al-Shabab, now scrambling to defend its monopoly on the mafia-style extortion racket that funds its high-profile attacks, is drifting from its long-declared goal of establishing a strict Islamic state.
The manhunt began in October with the killing of a top leader of the Daesh-linked group by a suspected Al-Shabab death squad in the capital, Mogadishu, according to several Somali intelligence officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
When the body of Mahad Maalin, deputy leader of the Daesh-affiliated group, was found near a beach in Mogadishu, it set off a hunt for suspected Daesh sympathizers within Al-Shabab’s ranks, officials said. Maalin had been suspected of trying to extend his group’s reach into the capital.
Last month, the Daesh group’s Al-Naba newsletter noted deadly attacks on its fighters in Somalia and warned that “when the time of response comes from Daesh, with God’s will, we will be excused.”

Strongholds
The Daesh-affiliated group in Somalia, largely made up of Al-Shabab defectors, first announced its presence in 2016 with attacks in the far north, far from Mogadishu and most Al-Shabab strongholds. Though estimated at a few hundred fighters at most, their emergence in one of the world’s most unstable countries has been alarming enough that the US military began targeting it with airstrikes a year ago.
While Al-Shabab and its thousands of fighters have hunted down suspected Daesh sympathizers before, they had not taken the young group’s expansion seriously until now, observers say.
“Al-Shabab miscalculated Daesh’s organizational capability and ambitions to extend its reach beyond the north, having judged it by its handful of fighters there, and thus missed the bigger picture,” said Mohamed Sheikh Abdi, a Mogadishu-based political analyst.
The revelation by businessmen that Daesh-linked operatives had begun making extortion demands took A-Shabab’s leadership by surprise, prompting the manhunt that has led to assassinations and the detention of over 50 suspected Daesh-linked extremists, including foreign fighters, two Somali intelligence officials told AP. One suspected Daesh-linked fighter from Egypt was shot dead on Nov. 18 in Jilib.
As members of the Daesh flee shrinking strongholds in Iraq and Syria, fears have grown that the terrorists will find a new and welcome home in parts of Africa.
Alarmed by Al-Shabab’s deadly attacks, the Daesh-linked group has expanded its own assassination campaign. Daesh’s Amaq news agency, turning its attention to the young affiliate, has released videos showing what it called killings by the group’s death squad.
Daesh-linked fighters already had claimed responsibility for 50 assassinations in southern Somalia between October 2017 and August, often against federal government officials, according to a report released last month by the UN panel of experts monitoring sanctions on the country.

Source of funding
While extortion is the fighters’ latest tactic it is nothing new in Somalia, where Al-Shabab has long used death threats and other intimidation to pressure businesses to pay what is called “zakah,” or charity. The money is their main source of funding. “Indeed, Al-Shabab is likely generating a significant budgetary surplus,” the UN panel of experts said, noting that one of its checkpoints brought in about $10 million a year.
With no strong government to protect them, businessmen often say they have no choice but to pay in exchange for protection.
Among the companies targeted by suspected extremists is Somalia’s telecom giant, Hormuud, which intelligence officials say has lost up to 10 employees in attacks in recent weeks. Hormuud officials did not respond to requests for comment.
Businesses worry that the rise of another extremist group seeking cash, as well as a new effort by Somalia’s central government to impose taxes, will bleed them dry.
“At this point, (businesses) are faced with two equally undesirable alternatives,” said Abdisamad Barre, a professor of business management in Mogadishu. “Rejection to the demands for extortion will pave way for attacks by Daesh, and paying them to evade danger will anger Al-Shabab.”
Somali intelligence officials say Al-Shabab’s new manhunt is aimed at preventing the Daesh-linked extremists from expanding their extortion demands into southern Somalia, where Al-Shabab levies millions of dollars in taxes per year on travelers and cargo meant for the lucrative port of Kismayo.
Another Al-Shabab tactic against its young rival is pressuring religious leaders to issue a fatwa, or edict, declaring Daesh “un-Islamic,” thus legitimizing a war against them, according to sources close to Al-Shabab who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal.
Security experts, however, say Al-Shabab will find it difficult to unearth Daesh supporters even within its own ranks.
“That will be a major challenge,” one official said, noting that IS-linked loyalists could be waiting quietly even in Al-Shabab’s leadership to make a move. “But that will probably take a long time given Al-Shabab’s vigilance.”


Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

Updated 10 December 2019

Afghan father’s perilous motorbike school run to realize daughter’s medical dream

  • Devoted dad overcomes strict traditions on female roles in hope of seeing girl become town’s first female doctor

PAKISTAN: Devoted Afghan dad Mia Khan has been hailed for going the extra mile to help his daughter achieve her dream of becoming a doctor.

Every day, the daily wage laborer, from Sharan city in Afghanistan’s eastern Paktika province, travels 12 km on his motorcycle to take Rozai to school.

And when classes end, he is there for the long and hazardous journey home through tough borderland terrain.

“You know, we don’t have any female doctors in our town. It is my ultimate wish to see my daughter as its first female doctor. I want her to serve humanity,” Khan told Arab News.

Paktika shares a 300 km border with Pakistan’s newly merged tribal districts of North and South Waziristan and parts of Balochistan province, where powerful patriarchal norms still dictate most women’s lives.

But Rozai and her father are determined to buck the trend through her tuition at Nooranya School, a community educational institution built by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.

Rozai told Arab News: “We have to travel a long distance and I would like for a school to be established closer to our home. We are often tired (from our journey) when we arrive at school and sometimes, we are late.”

Saif-ur-Rehman Shahab, a representative of the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, told Arab News that Khan, who has for years taken his children to school on a motorcycle, deserved all the plaudits he could get. Khan has two sons and seven daughters.

“Khan gets his children, specifically his daughter Rozai, educated in a very challenging situation. We have deteriorating security and poor awareness about girls’ education here. Khan is facing acute financial challenges working as a daily wage laborer. I deeply appreciate him for facing all these challenges boldly to educate his daughter,” Shahab said.

Hikmat Safi, an adviser to Afghanistan’s chief executive, said Khan’s passion was an inspiration to others. “Amid brewing insecurity coupled with cultural limitations, this is a really positive change when people like Khan come out to educate their children, primarily daughters.”

Nooranya School has 220 female students and is one of hundreds of community-based classes and schools, predominantly attended by girls, set up by the committee in various parts of Paktika province.