Somalia Jihad Update. “Somali gov’t names Qaeda leader as fighting rages,” by Sahal Abdulle for Reuters:
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – The Somali government said on Thursday that al Qaeda had made a young militant Islamist commander its leader in Mogadishu as fighting raged for a second day in the coastal capital.
Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle told a news conference Aden Hashi Ayro — an Afghanistan-trained commander in his 30s who runs the Islamists’ feared Shabab, or military wing — was personally directing the growing insurgency.
“The government is being targeted by those who used to work with terrorists, the so-called Islamic Courts,” Jelle said. “And after they had a long consultation with al Qaeda, they named Aden Hashi Ayro as head of (al Qaeda) operations in
The United States and the Somali government have long accused Ayro, and other Islamist leaders, of links to al Qaeda. But some critics say the government paints its political rivals as terrorists to secure more backing from Washington.
Thursday’s accusation came as insurgents again battled Somali government forces and their Ethiopian military allies, forcing hundreds of families to flee in the worst fighting in the Horn of Africa nation since a war at the end of 2006.
The former leader of the Islamists, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, surfaced in public for the first time since the war calling on Somalis to remove their foreign “occupiers.”
In a telephone interview, Aweys told the BBC’s Somali language radio section that he was still inside the country.
“Somalia is under occupation and people have the right to remove occupiers,” he said. “The Islamic Courts should have been commended for returning law and order, but the international community failed to do so.”