top of page

An Al-Shabaab emir by any other name

Back when I was following al-Shabaab more closely, I found it useful to have a visual representation of the organisation, which took the form of the "al-Shabaab Wall" overshadowing the dining table in my old flat.

After the death of al-Shabaab emir Ahmed Godane in a U.S. drone strike on Sept. 1, al-Shabaab selected a new leader, known by the nom de guerre Ahmed Umar Abu Ubaidah. Digging through piles of cards a few days ago, I finally found Abu Ubaidah's, under the name of Mahad Abdikarim (Ubaidah also goes by the name Ahmed Diriye). The card lists him as a member of the Dir clan, and as Godane's appointed leader of Bay, Bakool, and Gedo.

And here's my self-congratulatory boast for the day: at the bottom of the card is written "#2 to Godane?" Which, it turns out, he was.

Not to give myself too much credit, my pick to succeed Godane in the wake of his assassination was not Ubaidah/Abdirakim, but rather Mahad Karate, the head of the Aminyaat. But there's a pretty good explanation for why Karate wasn't in the running for the top job; according to Stig Hansen, Karate may have died in the drone strike that killed Godane.

Jay Bahadur
bottom of page