February 2009: Hizbul Islam worked with al-Shabab to carry out an attack on Mogadishu's African Union peacekeepers (300 wounded, 50 killed).
December 2, 2010: Hizbul Islam forces started a battle with al-Shabab in the town of Burkababa after al-Shabab ordered Hizbul Islam to cease collecting taxes at checkpoints from civilians. Al-Shabab members were victorious in the fighting and took over the town. Two killed were civilians, while the rest were fighters (5 wounded, 5 killed).
February 15, 2012
Hizbul Islam was created in February 4, 2009 through the merging of four Islamist groups in Somalia: Aweys' Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia-Eritrea; Mu'askar Ras Kamboni (the Ras Kamboni Brigade); Jabhatul Islamiya (the Islamic Front); and Anole. The group was originally part of the ARS that included a Djibouti division led by Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. However, Aweys and Ahmed strongly disagreed in their attitudes towards the TFG, and on August 18, 2008 Ahmed signed a cooperation agreement with the TFG, an action that Aweys vehemently opposed. Though Hizbul Islam and al Shabab are the two main Islamist factions in Somalia, Hizbul's Islam is considered by many experts as a domestic, national project rather than seeking an international jihadi agenda like Al Shabab. However, Hizbul Islam's leader, Dahir Aweys holds ties to Al Qaeda, while the group welcomed Osama Bin Laden to the Horn of Africa in April 2010.
Hizbul Islam has had a tumultuous relationship with Al Shabab. The two groups worked together to topple the UN backed Somali Transitional Federal Government beginning with a collaborative attack in February 2009. In fact, during Hizbul Islam's formation, spokesman Hassan Mahdi admitted that his group and Al Shabab had "identical positions' and were contemplating a merge in the future. Yet the two groups have fought battles over ideology and the control of towns such as the port town of Kismayo. After Hizbul Islam was defeated at Kismayo, Al Shabab exposed that Sheikh Ahmed Madoobe, leader of Hizbul Islam in the Juba valley, was collaborating with Ethiopia, Kenya, and the Transitional Federal Government. This scandal weakened trust between the factions that formed Hizbul Islam, and group cohesion began to unravel. Hizbul Islam began losing major power as one of its factions, the Ras Kamboni Brigade, left and joined Al Shabab in January of 2010. The struggle came to a pinnacle as on December 13th 2010 Al Shabab overtook the city of Burkhaba and threatened to behead twenty Hizbul Islam commanders. Meanwhile Hizbul Islam lost grounds in South Mogadishu, the while troops in Luk transferred over to Al Shabab. Ultimately, on December 2010 Al Shabab absorbed Hizbul Islam. The merge is considered a major threat to the region as according to The Long War Journal, "Shabab's takeover of Hizbul Islam will allow the terror group to put aside the intra-Islamist fighting, and will free up fighters and resources to battle the weak Somali government and African Union forces struggling to retake control of Mogadishu.'
Sheikh Omar Imam Abu Bakar was the first leader of Hizbul Islam, however in April 2009 he was ousted and replaced by Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys who accused Abu Bakar of being too moderate. Aweys is a red-bearded elder who co-led the Islamic Courts Union in 2006 with Sheikh Sharif Ahmed. Sheikh Aweys held formidable power as he was in charge of an eighty council law making body, while Sheikh Ahmed led an executive committee of eight people. He was trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan during the 1990's. Sheikh Aweys is on the US wanted list for his involvement in Itihaad al-Islamiya, (Islamic Union), and its supported Al Qaeda in the Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings in 1998.He is also on the United Nation's terrorist sanctions list for his ties to Al Qaeda.
Bare Ali Bare was a senior leader of Hizbul Islam and openly criticized the group's rival, Al Shabab. The leader was shot dead by two gunmen in an Al Shabab controlled market. It is suspected that Al Shabab was behind the murder as Bare Ali Bare excoriated Al Shabab for stealing Sheikh Turki and Ras Kamboni from Hizbul Islam.
Moallim Hashi Mohamed Farah (Unknown to 2010): Top leader in the Banadir province.
Sheikh Mohamed Mo'alin (Unknown to 2010): Information secretary
Hassan Mahdi (Unknown to 2010): Group spokesman
Bare Ali Bare (Unknown to 2010): Former senior leader
Sheikh Yusuf Mohamed Siad, aka Indho Ade (Unknown to 2010): Chairperson of Hizbul Islam, former Minister of Defense for the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia
Sheikh Omar Imam Abu Bakar (2009 to April 2009): Former senior leader
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys (2009 to 2010): Group leader
Ideology & Goals
Hizbul Islam's ideology has changed over time. Foremost, Hizbul Islam works to topple the Transitional Federal Government, implement sharia law, and rid Somalia of AU troops. On February 28, 2009, President Ahmed announced that he would implement sharia law in Somalia as an attempt to neutralize opposition factions such as Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam. Though the law was ratified on March 13, Hizbul Islam rejected the move, calling it a "deception,' and vowed to continue fighting to topple the Transitional Government. Furthermore, Hizbul Islam has denounced countries such as Djibouti for sending troops, and praised countries such as Nigeria, that stated they will never send troops to Somalia. According to Aweys the African Union Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia is the true 'enemy of the Somali people' stating that , "Unless the Somali people are allowed to frame their own fate, we will never have sustainable peace in the country.' The group believes in emulating the first three generations of Muhammad's followers. They consider anyone that deviates from their interpretation an apostate and thus have targeted Somali's Sufi population.
More recently the group has attempted to align their goals with Al Shabab to create an Islamic state based off of a strict implementation of sharia law. For example, in December 2009 rebels charged two men for adultery and murder and executed them, a punishment that is typically associated with Al Shabab. Another sign in the shift of ideology has included attacking Somali media networks. Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of the group, stated that "he wanted broadcasts to serve Islam,' seizing GBC, a popular station that showed live international football matches. HornAfrik, a popular Somali radio station, was also attacked; however, it is unclear whether Al Shabab or Hizbul Islam conducted the raid. The militants state that from now on they will only broadcast Islamic messages. Furthermore, in April 2010 the group issued an ultimatum threatening to punish any radio stations that play music, deeming music as "un-Islamic.' Fourteen radio stations in Mogadishu stopped broadcasting music, replacing music interludes with sounds of car horns or animal noises to introduce segments. In June 2010 Hizbul Islam members killed two people and arrested ten others for watching the World Cup Soccer Games, after the group had banned its viewing. Sheikh Mohamed Abdi Aros, the group's spokesman, justified these actions, claiming that the rest of the country should shift their focus from the games to solely pursing jihad. Thus Hizbul Islam's stringency has permeated numerous arenas of life. As Letta Tayler, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, explains, "What we're seeing now with the soccer crackdown is happening every day, on multiple levels, in terms of the crackdown of activities, daily, routine mundane activities.'
Though Al Shabab was designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department, Hizbul Islam as an organization was not. However, the US did designate Hizbul Islam leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, after 9/11 on November 7, 2001 as a "supporter of terrorism" for his affiliation with Al Qaeda.
Much like Al Shabab, Hizbul Islam benefits from piracy along the Somali coast. The group receives monetary benefits and resources from pirates, as for example, in Xarardheere, a town along the coast, elder pirates agreed to split their ransoms with Hizbul Islam and Al Shabab. In addition, the group receives funding through fida' (Islamic ransom) and zakat (Islamic charity). The group hoped to control the piracy and ransom market in Haradhere that has evolved into a "stock exchange' complete with ransom brokers, especially after losing control of the southern port of Kismayo to Al Shabab in 2009. Pirates seize ships and crews after which they negotiate payments, which served as an opportunity for Hizbul Islam to dominate the market and impose harbor taxes to gain revenue. Hizbul Islam has also faced the problem of extortion for money as well. In April 2010 Sheikh Dahir Aweys warned his group members to abstain from extorting money from civilians.
Hibzul Islam has not sought external influence, especially in comparison to Al Shabab, as the group's focus remains national. Group leaders such as Sheikh Hasan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Turki are "nationalists and strong advocates of the creation of a greater Somalia, which incorporates al of the Somali-inhabited regions into one state.' Hizbul Islam's stance stands in juxtaposition to Al Shabab's goal of creating an Islamic Caliphate in the Horn of Africa, and thus exert a greater degree of external influence.
Hizbul Islam and Al Shabab control southern and much of central Somalia including Lower Jubba, Middle Jubba, Lower Shabelle, Gedo, Bay, Bakool along with parts of the capital, Mogadishu.
Targets & Tactics
Hizbul Islam has used numerous strategies to challenge the leadership of the TFG and openly embraced the use of suicide bombing as a tactic to rid Somalia of AU forces. In a sermon outside Mogadishu in September 2009, Aweys exhorted, "I call upon the people to carry out more attacks against the African forces; they came to Somalia to assist our enemy, kill them… in any way possible and use suicide attacks to kill them.' In addition the group engages in the raiding of towns, shootings, and assassination of TFG leaders.
After its formation in 2009, Hizbul Islam leader Sheikh Aweys stated that he "welcomed" mediation between his groups and former ally Sheikh Sharif. He stated that their differences were "not personal, bust based on principles." The Somali Government led by Sheikh Sharif Ahmed has attempted to bring members of Hizbul Islam into the government, but Aweys has refused to join.
February 2009: Hizbul Islam worked with Al Shabab to carry out an attack on Mogadishu's African Union peacekeepers (50 killed, 300 wounded).
February 18, 2010: Hizbul Islam fighters, led by Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, attacked the Somali border town of Dhobley to oust Al Shabab fighters. The raid was successful as Al Shabab members abandoned the town. Most of those killed were fighters (15 killed, 25 wounded).
May 2010: Hizbul Islam is believed to have played a role in the bombing of two Al Shabab controlled markets, one in Kismayo and the other in Bakara market. A high level Al Shabab official was amongst the dead. However the level of involvement fro Hizbul Islam is unclear. (48 killed).
May 1, 2010: Hizbul Islam suspected to be behind two mosque bombings in Mogadishu's Bakaro Market. The bomb allegedly targeted Sheik Fuad Mohammed Khalaf, known as Fuad Mohammed Shonghole, a top Al Shabab commander. The commander was wounded, however many bystanders worshipping at the mosque were killed. (40 killed).
May 2, 2010: Hizbul Islam overtakes port city of Herardhere formerly controlled by Somali pirates. (Unknown).
May 5, 2010: Hizbul Islam fighters attacked Dr. Hawa Abdi camp, a health clinic outside Mogadishu because a guard had owed the group a debt. The group also overtook the camp and detained 20 local staff members. The clinic was destroyed by the fighting and a Hizbul Islam commander was killed in the firefight. (1 killed).
September 22, 2010: A suicide bomber tried to assassinate the President of Somalia, crossing several checkpoint with his car intended on reaching the President's headquarters. The attempt failed as security forces fired upon him. Hizbul Islam claimed responsibility for the attack, which is believed to be the group's first suicide attack against the African Union and the Somali government. The suicide bomber died in the attack. (1 killed).
December 2, 2010: Hizbul Islam forces started a battle with Al Shabab in the town of Burkababa after Al Shabab ordered Hizbul Islam to cease collecting taxes at checkpoints from civilians. Al Shabab members were victorious in the fighting and took over the town. Two killed were civilians, while the rest were fighters. (5 killed, 5 wounded).
Relationships with Other Groups
90 days after its formation, Hizbul Islam bifurcated. On March 24, 2009 an opposition group led by Yusuf Mohammed Siad Indho Ade denounced Omar Iman as chairman of the group during a press conference. However, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys rejected Ade's assertion stating that, "No one can take authority away from Sheikh Omar Iman, because the group appointed him as chairman' and accused Ade of attempted to destroy Hizbul Islam. Such disputes led to the group splitting in two, with Indho Ade leading one group and Hassan Aweys leading the other. On May 17, 2009 Indho Ade's group defected to the Transitional Government, only to defect again in 2010 over disagreements with the government. Increased tensions over defection occurred in January 2010 when one Ras Kamboni movement leader Madobe was accused of joining Ahlu Sunna Walijama. Sheikh Aweys announced at a press conference in Mogadishu that Sheikh Ahmed Madobe signed an agreement with the TFG and Kenya. Madobe denied the accusations stating that, "he's still with Hizbul Islam and remains loyal to it.' However numerous sources such as Hiraan Online and SomaliaReport confirm the defection and that in 2011 pro-government militias have been led by Madobe, who rejected Al Shabab's absorption of Hizbul Islam in 2010. In addition, another Ras Kamboni leader and numerous troop members defected from Hizbul Islam to Al Shabab.
Ras Kamboni Brigade was one of the four main Hizbul Islam factions. However, in February 2010 the group, with an estimated number of 500-1,000 fighters, left Hizbul Islam and merged with Al Shabab. The group released a statement announcing that it had joined Al Qaeda's affiliate in Somalia, signed by the founder and leader of Ras Kamboni Brigade, Sheikh Hassan Turki, and the leader of Al Shabab, Ahmed Abdi Godane. According to Sheikh Turki, Ras Kamboni Brigade severed ties with Hizbul Islam to join Al Shabab as a measure of unification amongst mujahideen. The Kamboni rebel group and Al Shabab contended that they put their differenced aside to join Al Qaeda's international jihad. Turki stated, "We have united to revive military strength, economy and politics of our mujahideen to stop the war created by colonizers, and to prevent the attacks of the Christians who invaded our country.' Bare Ali Bare, a deputy commander of Ras Kamboni Brigade, denied however that the group had joined Al Shabab. He was shortly executed by Al Shabab in a market in central Mogadishu. Hizbul Islam responded by assassinating the leader of Ras Kamboni Brigade, Sheikh Da'ud Ali Hassan. Hizbul Islam was also suspected of conducting bombings that targeted Al Shabab fighters in May 2010, as retaliatory measures.
izbul Islam has had an unstable relationship with Al Shabab. In May 2009, Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam had worked together to fight the government in Mogadishu. However, the two group's relationship unraveled in the following October as they fought one another in the southern port of Kismayo. 'The port city had formerly been controlled by both groups, however, Al Shabab carved out a new administration in Kismayo that excluded Hizbul Islam members. Reflecting such tensions, Al Shabab spokesman Sheikh Rage encouraged Hizbul Islam members to leave and join Al Shabab, as "Dahir Aweys could not be trusted since Hizbul Islam leaders with their weapons joined the TFG.' Tensions escalated as taxes collected at the port of Kismayo are important sources of funding for both groups. Hizbul Islam troops led by Ahmed Madobe were forced to leave. As Abdinasir Seraar, spokesman for Hizbul Islam in the Jubba region explained, Hizbul Islam will work to fight against Al Shabab, "who are indiscriminately killing innocent Somalis and trying to wipe out Somali culture.' On November 21, Al Shabab seized Afmadow. Hizbul Islam factions Ras Kamboni Brigade and Anole pledged to fight back, but to no avail. In mid December 2010, Al Shabab attacked Burhakaba, a town that Hizbul Islam controlled, shortly after which negotiations took place and leader Dahir Aweys agreed to the merge. In speeches Al Shabab attributed this merge to a closer adherence of Quranic verses where Allah demands his followers to "hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah, and be not divided among yourselves' in order to defeat the enemy. Hizbul Islam's members have been absorbed by Al Shabab while Al Shabab has overtaken Hizbul Islam's former locations around Mogadishu. In addition, previous leader Dahir Aweys is now a top Al Shabab leader.
Much like Al Shabab, Hizbul Islam has also forged a relationship with Al Qaeda, though the group was at first against foreign mingling. Unlike Al Shabab, Aweys firmly believed that Bin Laden and Al Qaeda should remain outside of Somalia. Aweys stated that, "Somalia knows its future and who can involve, but it is not something for Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda either.' However, on April 3, 2010 during a press conference held in Mogadishu, Moallim Hashi Mohamed Farah, one of the group's top leaders, invited Osama bin Laden along with other foreign jihadists to come to Somalia. He added that the media is wrong to label jihadists as foreigners, and that the true foreigners are the African union forces that have entered the country. However, some Hizbul Islam fighters still oppose Al Qaeda, and thus are not happy with the merge with Al Shabab, which could increase ties with Al Qaeda.
Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama, a pro-government Sufi Islamist militia that controls several regions in central Somalis, also clashes with Hizbul Islam as it does with Al Shabab. Ahlu Sunnah has fought Hizbul Islam in the town of Beledweyne in the Hiran region near the border with Ethiopia, freeing the city from the control of Hizbul Islam. Ahlu Sunnah also clashed against Al Shabab and Hizbul Islam at Wabho village in the Galgudad region of Central Somalis, after which some believed that Sheikh Aweys had been injured.
Much like Al Shabab, Hizbul Islam considers itself a protector of the Somali people. In May 2010 the group moved 200 armed militants into the town of Haradhere to rid the area of pirates. "We are in Haradhere now, we came here after we received a request from local people to help them provide their security,' stated Mohamed Abdi Aros, the group's chief of operations. Yet Hizbul Islam's true motives are unclear, as a pirate from Haradhere claimed that Hizbul Islam demanded a share of the piracy trade. Dahir Aweys had emphasized the importance of maintaining the support of the people. He criticized his members for extorting money from civilians and warned them that this behavior will "bring a bad image to the personality of the person and the group he represents' threatening the punishment of Islamic Law if one is found guilty of such actions.
However, tribal rivalries have affected Hizbul Islam's relationship with communities. For example, Ras Kamboni and Anole, two Hizbul Islam group factions that overtook Kismayo in 2008, are members of the Darod sub-clan who have a tumultuous history with Marehans, the locally dominant group in Kismayo. Such tribal tensions led to the Marehans to align themselves with Al Shabab over Hizbul Islam.