Somalia – Somali militant group Al Shabaab bombed a minivan carrying staff to a United Nations office in the semi-autonomous Puntland region on the 20 Apr 15 killing six people including four from the global body's children's fund UNICEF. Images posted on social media show a blood-spattered white vehicle, its windows shattered and the roof blown off by the blast in the region's administrative capital Garowe. UNICEF said in a statement the improvised explosive device attack occurred when its staff were travelling to the office from their guest house nearby and that four more of its staff were seriously injured. "We are behind the Garowe attack," Al Shabaab's military operations spokesman, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab said.
Somalia’s Al-Shabaab militants are divided over whether to maintain their allegiance to Al-Qaeda or shift to Islamic State, according to militant and security sources, analysts and clan elders it was reported on the 26 Apr 15. The division comes at a time when Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has become the jihadist franchise of choice, attracting fighters from abroad and other militant groups such as Boko Haram in Nigeria, while Al-Qaeda too has recently expanded its territory in Yemen. “Why is it a surprise to hear that Shabaab may join the Islamic State? All Muslims have to unite against their enemy,” said a Shabaab commander. The commander said Shabaab “would be more than happy to join forces to strike the enemy of Islam harder”. The admission comes at a time when Shabaab is under pressure militarily but remains able to launch guerrilla and terror attacks, seemingly at will, against civilian targets in Somalia and Kenya. “Shabaab is desperate. They have lost ground in Somalia, they may be considering joining the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria so that they get funds and moral support,” said Mohamed Ibrahim, a Somali security official. But others suggest Shabaab is still considered a valuable partner in jihad. “There’s a debate going on between the core leaders whether to switch to IS, whether to stay with Al-Qaeda,” Somalia’s Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke said. “Both ISIS and Al-Qaeda are appealing to Shabaab to join them,” he said. Sharmarke said that recent territorial gains in Yemen by Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the strongest of Al-Qaeda’s franchises, might embolden and strengthen Shabaab. “It’s really crucial now because this can spill over from the Yemen conflict and easily come to Somalia,” he said. “The Gulf of Aden can become a corridor to Afghanistan and Pakistan.” Sources in southern Somalia, where Shabaab fighters and commanders are now concentrated, confirmed that meetings have taken place to discuss the IS/AQ issue. “We have heard about a meeting by Shabaab senior leaders,” said Hassan Nure, an elder in Lower Shabelle region. “They haven’t agreed anything so far, some of them are still very reluctant because they want to maintain relations with Al-Qaeda.” “The dispute in Shabaab over whether to remain loyal to Al-Qaeda or align instead with IS is very real,” says Tres Thomas, a Washington-based Somali expert and manager of the respected Somalia Newsroom blog. Analysts say Shabaab leader Ahmed Diriye, also known as Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah, is an Al-Qaeda loyalist, while the powerful secret police chief, Mahad Karate, is the most senior proponent of a shift to IS. A shift to IS might bring financial benefits. “If Shabaab were to align with IS it would mean an increase in money and resources that AQ cannot provide at the moment,” said a Western security source. It might also provide a political boost and a propaganda coup. “In some ways you inherit the strength of the group to whom you pledge allegiance,” said Roland Marchal, a terrorism expert and senior research fellow at the National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) in Paris. But for Marchal, the long and strong links between Shabaab and AQAP would make switching allegiance a financial and political wrench, as well as a tricky decision. “The Shabaab leadership remains closely linked to AQAP and it’s hard to believe that they would switch to IS just like that.” And the extent of internal Shabaab support for a move is not known. “It is unclear how big and influential the pro-IS faction is and whether it would be able to shift broader opinion in Shabaab, outside of a number of foreign fighters who are also behind an IS alliance,” said Thomas. In any case, a simple shift of allegiance may do little to increase Shabaab’s appeal to potential recruits. “While Shabaab would like to see jihadists, particularly those of Somali descent, come to Somalia instead of Syria and Iraq, an alliance with IS would not change the fact that Shabaab’s dwindling territorial control and urban attacks against civilians are still a major disincentive for recruits.”