Terrorists on the run after defecting to ISIS

Abdikadir Tache, Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi, Salim Ahmed Mohamed and Fuad Abubakar Manswab.

From left: Terror suspects Abdikadir Tache, Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi, Salim Ahmed Mohamed and Fuad Abubakar Manswab. 

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Wanted Al-Shabaab terrorist Abdifatah Abubakar Abdi alias Musa Muhajir has defected to the Somalia faction of the so-called Islamic State, a Kenyan security report says.

Abdifatah has been the deputy of Jaysh Ayman — the terror group’s wing that has been known to make incursions into Kenya — answering to Maalim Ayman. Jaysh Ayman was for a long time made up of foreign terrorist fighters (non-Somali nationals) who would be deployed in the Lakta belt adjacent to Lamu’s Boni forest in the Kenyan Coast region to carry out attacks.

“In the recent past, Abdifatah and Maalim Ayman have been at loggerheads over discontent and defections by foreign fighters, including Kenyans, from Al-Shabaab to Daesh (Islamic State). Al-Shabaab leadership openly discriminates against foreign fighters, whom they perceive to be invading opportunists who cannot be allowed to take over the leadership,” says the report.

Over the years, there have been reports that foreign terrorists within Somalia have been sidelined and are tactfully sent to the frontlines as a way of eliminating them. They are also segregated as belonging to a lower pedigree, and receive lower pay compared to Somali fighters, who are also entitled to longer off-time from the frontlines.

Foreign fighters

“Early last year Abu Ubaidah (Al-Shabaab leader) instructed all foreign fighters not to interact in any way with new recruits. He also had a number of foreign fighters arrested and beheaded on the allegations of espionage without giving them a chance to defend themselves,” says the Kenyan security report, adding that prominent foreign fighters had also been barred from attending Al-Shabaab leadership meetings.

 The situation is said to have caused dissent, with veteran foreign fighters like Abdukadir Mohamed Abdikadir aka Ikrima and Maalim Salman joining the protest and demanding better treatment and equal pay.

The disagreements, according to the report, have affected the group meant to operate in Kenya, with Maalim Ayman reportedly accusing Abdifatah of insubordination and causing a mutiny by holding secret meetings.

“The situation deteriorated when 20 of the fighters who were deployed by Ayman and placed under the command of Abdifatah changed allegiance and defected to Daesh (Islamic State), with intentions of eventually joining Daesh in Puntland. Consequently, Abdifatah was summoned by the top leaders to explain the disappearance. After the meeting, Abdifatah went into hiding and defected,” says the report.

Al-Shabaab is said to have gone on an all-out offensive to get and kill Abdifatah and the other defectors, who include Fuad Abubakar Manswab, a Kenyan from Mombasa and a close associate of Abdifatah’s; Salim Ahmed Mohamed alias Lascano alias Serano, also from Mombasa; and Abdikadir Tache aka Chikicha from Isiolo.

Al-Shabaab and the Islamic State have remained in fierce competition after the Somalia-based terror group rejected overtures by the latter in favour of Al-Qaeda.

A 2019 report by Stanford University’s Centre for International Security and Cooperation noted that the incident in 2015 birthed a fierce rivalry and militants supportive of the Islamic State have been actively recruiting from Al-Shabaab ranks, leading to a fiery competition for supporters.