Al-Shabaab's supreme leader replaced due to sickness, Somalia spy agency says

Al-Shabaab militants train in the outskirts of Mogadishu. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • The National Intelligence and Security Agency (Nisa) reported on Friday that Al-Shabaab’s Emir (supreme leader) Ahmed Diriye Abu Ubaidah has been replaced due to ill health.
  • It added that the power to run the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group has been transferred to his deputy Abukar Adan.


Somalia’s spy agency says Al-Shabaab has made changes to its top leadership amid internal wrangles in the militant group with divided allegiance to global jihadist movements.

The National Intelligence and Security Agency (Nisa) reported on Friday that Al-Shabaab’s Emir (supreme leader) Ahmed Diriye Abu Ubaidah had been replaced due to ill health.

Nisa’s statement on its Twitter page said, “Because of health concerns, the power of militant group Al-Shabaab has been temporarily transferred to Abukar Adan, his deputy leader.”

“There has been a bitter power struggle between a section led by Mahad Karate and supporters of Abu Ubaidah on the nomination of a new leader,” Nisa added.

It did not give details of the leader’s illness.

Virus effects

A study released early in August, by Nairobi-based think-tank Africa Policy Institute, indicated the Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group may have been overwhelmed by Covid-19.

The report said the terror group’s leadership and expansion plans were affected as members haggled on how to handle the pandemic.

Some members reportedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, a terror group that arose from Iraq and Syria before spreading its evil around the world.

Other analysts like Rashid Abdi, a Kenyan researcher on the Horn of Africa and the Gulf, have indicated that reports of bhang fields in areas Al-Shabaab controls mean the militant group may be departing from its jihadist stance and using crime to advance its cause.


Despite his departure, there is a bounty on Ubaidah’s head.

In 2015, the US offered a $6 million reward for any information leading to his capture.

He had replaced Ahmed Abdi Godane, who was killed in a US drone strike in September 2014.

The offer of the reward also mentioned Mahad Karate, also known as Abdirahman Mohamed Warsame, who is believed to have played a key role in the April 2, 2015 attack on Garissa University College that killed 148 people.

Al-Shabaab is bitterly fighting against the internationally recognized secular Somalia government with the intention of ruling the Horn of Africa country by means of a Sharia (Islamic laws).


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