Hizbul Islam

FormedFebruary 4, 2009
DisbandedGroup is active.
First AttackFebruary 2009: Hizbul Islam worked with Al-Shabab to carry out an attack on Mogadishu's African Union peacekeepers (300 wounded, 50 killed). [1]
Last AttackDecember 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 civilians were killed, while the rest of the casualties were fighters (5 killed, 5 wounded). [2]
UpdatedJuly 10, 2013

Narrative Summary

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. [3] 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. [4] 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. [5] However, Hizbul Islam's leader Dahir Aweys does hold ties to Al Qaeda and welcomed Osama Bin Laden to the Horn of Africa in April 2010. [6] 


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. [7] The two groups, however, 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 Hizbul Islam's leader in the Juba valley, Sheikh Ahmed Madoobe, 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. [8] Hizbul Islam was significantly weakened when one of its factions, the Ras Kamboni Brigade, left and joined Al-Shabab in January 2010. [9] The struggle came to an end when, on December 13th, 2010, Al-Shabab overtook the city of Burkhaba and threatened to behead twenty Hizbul Islam commanders. [10] Meanwhile, Hizbul Islam was also losing ground in South Mogadishu, as its troops in Luk began transferring over to Al-Shabab. [11]  Ultimately, on December 2010, Al-Shabab absorbed Hizbul Islam. The merge is considered a major threat to the region since, 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." [12] 

Leadership

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.[13] 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. [14] He was trained in al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan during the 1990's. [15] Sheikh Aweys is on the US most-wanted list for his involvement in Itihaad al-Islamiya, (Islamic Union), and its support of the Al Qaeda-perpetrated bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. [16] He is also on the United Nation's terrorist sanctions list for his ties to Al Qaeda. In June 2013, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys was arrested by government forces in Mogadishu, although it is still unclear whether he defected from Al-Shabab or surrendered. [17]


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. [18]

  1. Moallim Hashi Mohamed Farah (Unknown to 2010): Top leader in the Banadir province.[19]
  2. Sheikh Mohamed Mo'alin (Unknown to 2010): Information secretary[20]
  3. Hassan Mahdi (Unknown to 2010): Group spokesman[21]
  4. Bare Ali Bare (Unknown to 2010): Former senior leader[22]
  5. 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
  6. Sheikh Omar Imam Abu Bakar (2009 to April 2009): Former senior leader[23]
  7. Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys (2009 to 2010): Group leader[24]

Ideology & Goals

Hizbul Islam's ideology has changed over time. Hizbul Islam's ultimate goals has been to topple the Transitional Federal Government, implement shariah law, and rid Somalia of AU troops. On February 28, 2009, President Ahmed announced that he would implement shariah law in Somalia as an attempt to neutralize opposition factions such as Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam. Although the law was ratified on March 13, Hizbul Islam rejected the move and vowed to continue fighting to topple the Transitional Government. [25] Furthermore, Hizbul Islam has condemned countries such as Djibouti for contributing troops to the AU force, and praised countries like Nigeria that have 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.' [26] The group believes in emulating the first three generations of Muhammad's followers. They consider anyone that deviates from their interpretation as an apostate and have therefore targeted Somali's Sufi population. [27]

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. [28] 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,' and seized GBC, a popular station that broadcast 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. [29] 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, which they deem 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. [30] In June 2010, members of Hizbul Islam 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. [31] Hizbul Islam's strict interpretation of Islam 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.' [32]

Designated/Listed

Although Al-Shabab was designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department, Hizbul Islam as an organization was not. However, on November 7, 2001, the US did designate the group's leader, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, as a "supporter of terrorism" for his affiliation with Al Qaeda. [33]

Resources

Much like Al-Shabab, Hizbul Islam benefits from piracy along the Somali coast. The group receives monetary benefits and resources from pirates; for example, in the coastal town of Xarardheere, elder pirates agreed to split their ransoms with Hizbul Islam and Al-Shabab.[34] In addition, the group receives funding through 'fida' (Islamic ransom) and 'zakat' (Islamic charity). The group attempted to control the piracy and ransom market in Haradhere after it evolved into a "stock exchange,' complete with ransom brokers, especially after they lost control of the southern port of Kismayo to Al-Shabab in 2009.[35] 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. [36] Hizbul Islam has also faced controversy around the money extortion. In April 2010, Sheikh Dahir Aweys warned his group members to abstain from extorting money from civilians. [37]

External Influences

Hibzul Islam has not sought external influences, especially in comparison to Al-Shabab, since 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 all of the Somali-inhabited regions into one state." [38] Hizbul Islam's stance stands in juxtaposition to Al-Shabab's goal of creating an Islamic Caliphate in the Horn of Africa, and thus exerts a greater degree of external influence.

Geographical Locations

Up until mid-2012, 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. [39]. By August 2012, Al-Shabab forces began withdrawing from Mogadishu, due to pressure from African Union and Kenyan forces. [40]  

Targets & Tactics

Hizbul Islam has used numerous strategies to challenge the leadership of the TFG and has 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.' [41] In addition, the group engages in the raiding of towns, shootings, and assassination of TFG leaders.

Political Activities

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."[42] 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. [43]. In June 2013, Aweys signaled his interest in participating in talks with the government; however, he was arrested upon arrival at Mogadishu airport and currently remains under government custody. [44] 

Major Attacks

  1. February 2009: Hizbul Islam worked with Al Shabab to carry out an attack on Mogadishu's African Union peacekeepers (50 killed, 300 wounded).[45]
  2. 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).[46]
  3. 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).[47]
  4. 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).[48]
  5. May 2, 2010: Hizbul Islam overtakes port city of Herardhere formerly controlled by Somali pirates. (Unknown).[49]
  6. 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).[50]
  7. 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).[51]
  8. 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).[52]

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. [53] 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. [54] 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 [55] confirm the defection and that in 2011 pro-government militias were led by Madobe, who rejected Al-Shabab's absorption of Hizbul Islam in 2010. [56] 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 groups that merged to form Hizbul Islam. 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. [57] 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 should put their differences aside to join Al Qaeda's international jihad. [58] 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.' [59] 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.[60] Hizbul Islam was also suspected of conducting bombings that targeted Al Shabab fighters in May 2010, as a retaliatory measure. [61]

Hizbul Islam has had an unstable and constantly changing relationship with Al-Shabab. In May 2009, Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam worked together to fight the government in Mogadishu. However, the relationship between the two groups  unraveled the following October as they fought one another in the southern port of Kismayo. [62] '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." [63] Tensions escalated as taxes collected at the port of Kismayo are an important source of funding for both groups. Hizbul Islam troops led by Ahmed Madobe were forced to leave. [64] 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." [65] On November 21, Al-Shabab seized Afmadow. Hizbul Islam factions Ras Kamboni Brigade and Anole pledged to fight back, but to no avail. [66] 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. [67] 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. [68] Hizbul Islam's members have been absorbed by Al-Shabab, while Al-Shabab has overtaken Hizbul Islam's former locations around Mogadishu. [69] In addition, previous leader Dahir Aweys is now a top Al-Shabab leader. [70] On September 25, 2012, however, Hizbul Islam announced that they were splitting from Al-Shabab, citing Al-Shabab's ties with Al Qaeda and misinterpretation of Islam. The spokesman from Hizbul Islam also signaled that the group was willing to participate in talks with the new Somali federal government appointed in August 2012, so long as the government was ready to be an "Islamic government." [71]   

Much like Al-Shabab, Hizbul Islam has also forged a relationship with Al Qaeda, though the group was at first against foreign interference. 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.' [72] 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. [73] However, some Hizbul Islam fighters still oppose Al Qaeda, and thus did not support the merger with Al-Shabab, which officially merged with Al Qaeda in February 2012. [74]

Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama, a pro-government Sufi Islamist militia that controls several regions in central Somalia, also clashes with Hizbul Islam and 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. [75] Ahlu Sunnah also clashed against Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam at Wabho village in the Galgudad region of Central Somalia, after which some believed Sheikh Aweys had been injured. [76]

Community Relationships

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. [77] Yet Hizbul Islam's true motives are unclear, as a pirate from Haradhere claimed that Hizbul Islam demanded a share of the piracy trade. [78] In the past, Dahir Aweys has 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. [79] 

However, tribal rivalries have affected Hizbul Islam's relationship with communities. For example, Ras Kamboni and Anole, two factions of Hizbul Islam 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 the Marehans to align themselves with Al-Shabab over Hizbul Islam. [80]


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