The killing of its leader could destabilize al-Shabaab: Analyst

By Dialogo
September 09, 2014

The airstrike killed Ahmed Abdi Godane on Sept. 1. during an air attack with Hellfire and laser-guided missiles on an al-Shabaab training area about 100 miles south of Mogadishu, according to U.S. officials.
The killing of its leader could destabilize al-Shabaab, said Ruben Sanchez, a researcher at the National University of Colombia (UNAL).
Killing the leader of the terrorist group “has important implications,” Sanchez said.
In September 2013, Godane had publicly claimed that al-Shabaab was responsible for the Westgate Mall attack, which killed and injured dozens in Nairobi, Kenya, calling the attack “revenge” for Kenyan and Western involvement in Somalia and highlighting its proximity to the anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Under his leadership, the group has claimed responsibility for many bombings—including various types of suicide attacks—in Mogadishu and in central and northern Somalia, typically targeting officials and perceived allies of the Somali Government as well as the former Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, according to U.S. officials.
Godane had also overseen plots targeting Westerners, including U.S. persons, in East Africa. In recent months, al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Djibouti that killed a Turkish national and wounded several Western soldiers as well a car bomb at the Mogadishu airport that targeted and killed members of a United Nations convoy. Al-Shabaab was responsible for the twin suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2010, which killed more than 70 people, including one American.
The terrorist group has also been responsible for the assassination of Somali peace activists, international aid workers, numerous civil society figures, and journalists. In February 2012, al-Shabaab and al Qaeda announced their formal alliance through a statement in which Godane swore allegiance to al Qaeda and promised to follow “the road of jihad and martyrdom in the footsteps that our martyr Osama bin Laden has drawn for us.”
The U.S. government has named al-Shabaab a Foreign Terrorist Organization under Section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (as amended) on February 26, 2008, and a Specially Designated Global Terrorist entity under Executive Order 13224 on February 29, 2008.
Godane was said to be 37 years old, military authorities said. He was originally from Somaliland in northern Somalia. U.S. officials had posted a $7 million reward for his capture or killing.
Although al-Shabaab’s terrorist actions had so far been limited to Africa, the group reportedly had recruiting and support links in the U.S. and elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere, particularly among Somali expatriate communities who have fled the poverty and warfare in their native country.
For example, in November 20, 2013, three Somali immigrants in San Diego, Calif., including the leader of a popular local mosque, were sentenced by a federal judge to prison terms of 10 to 18 years for their involvement in providing material support to al-Shabaab.
U.S. officials are also concerned that al-Shabaab operatives might enter the U.S. hidden among ordinary Somali refugees who come into the country illegally through Mexico and South and Central America.
In an indictment filed in Texas in 2010, a Somali man was charged with operating a large-scale alien-smuggling ring out of Brazil responsible for smuggling several hundred Somalis and other East Africans into the United States. The indictment alleged that the smuggling operation transported several persons associated with a forerunner group of al-Shabaab.
Julieta Pelcastre contributed to this article.