Monday May 13, 2019
By Thomas Joscelyn


Abu ‘Abdurahman Mahad Warsame, as pictured by Shabaab.

Abu ‘Abdurahman Mahad Warsame, a senior Shabaab official, addresses
the issue of jihadist violence directed at Muslims in a newly released
audio message. Shabaab’s propaganda arm, Al Kata’ib Media, produced the
recording, which is accompanied by English subtitles. Warsame alternates
between Arabic and Somali throughout his lecture, which is peppered
with references to Islamic texts.

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Al Qaeda and its regional branches, including Shabaab, have long
sought to draw a fine line between what they see as legitimate violence
and operations that violate Islamic doctrine prohibiting the shedding of
Muslim blood. It is a thorny issue that al Qaeda has addressed multiple
times. And Warsame returns to the matter in his audio address, which is
titled, “The Sanctity of Muslim Blood.”

Warsame begins by setting forth what he sees as the religious
justifications for Shabaab’s jihad in Somalia and East Africa. He says
the “commandments of Allah” deem it necessary to “fight the disbelievers
who are hostile towards our religion, our land and our people and who
are misguiding our youth, massacring our weak, plundering our resources
and propagating disbelief and debauchery in the Muslim society.” Thus,
the “call of Jihad that we constantly reiterate is a holy struggle aimed
at achieving the pleasure of Allah and His reward.” 

The jihadists’ goal is to build a “righteous Muslim society that
adheres to the laws of the Quran and Sunnah, upholds the teachings of Al-Wala’ Wal-Bara’ [meaning loyalty and disavowal] and disassociates itself from all forms of disbelief.”

Warsame claims that “victory” is within reach despite the fact that
the “mujahideen” face “an enemy greater in number and more
technologically advanced.”

He then discusses two Shabaab operations. The first is a raid on a
hotel complex in Nairobi, Kenya that was carried out in January. Shabaab
said at the time that this operation
was conducted as part of “Operation Jerusalem will never be Judaized,” a
campaign authorized by al Qaeda’s global leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri.  

Shabaab’s decision to attack a civilian hotel ran the risk of causing
indiscriminate Muslim casualties – a fact that the group and Warsame
have to recognize. However, Warsame defends the terrorist operation,
arguing that this “blessed attack” killed “a number of crusaders and
Jews.” The “blessed attack” was orchestrated “in defense of the Islamic
sanctities (Al-Quds),” which is “considered one of the great modern-day
battles of Islam” and “will be recorded in the pages of history.” The
assault in Nairobi was also “part of a series of operations aimed at
defending our religion, [the] honor of our beloved Prophet Muhammad and
protecting the sanctities of Islam,” Warsame argues.

The second attack referenced by Warsame occurred last November, when
Shabaab’s men killed Sheikh Abdiweli Ali Elmi Yare and more than one
dozen other civilians in the city of Galkayo. Shabaab’s jihadis
indisputably killed Muslim civilians, but Warsame attempts to justify
the massacre anyway.

Warsame describes Abdiweli, a Sufi leader whose method of worship
contradicted Shabaab’s puritanical creed, as the “great liar of
Somalia.” Shabaab even accused Abdiweli of being a “false prophet” — a
charge repeated by Warsame.

The Shabaab ideologue argues this “blessed operation” was necessary
to defend “the honor of our beloved Prophet,” because Abdiweli has
supposedly violated Islam’s teachings. Warsame claims, somewhat
implausibly, that “Muslims all over the world rejoiced and celebrated
upon hearing the news of this blessed operation.” There is no real
evidence to support this claim, as Abdiweli’s death was a minor news
story at the time.

Warsame ties Abdiweli’s supposed apostasy to the Somali government
and the US, claiming that the “apostate Somali regime…served as the
guardian and protector of this false prophet” and it was “their
American-backed apostate militia who immediately rushed to his defense.”
In addition, Warsame says, other Somali “apostate leaders…condemned the
attack and criticized those who were defending the honor of our beloved
Prophet.”

Despite defending the terrorist assault in Nairobi and Abdiweli’s
assassination, Warsame is keenly aware that Shabaab’s violence can
easily transgress even the group’s own bounds. Therefore, he tries to
set some limits.

Warsame claims the “apostate regime and the invading crusaders have
barricaded themselves in hotels and set up their headquarters and
ministries in populated neighborhoods in the midst of the civilian
population in an attempt to protect themselves from the attacks of the
Mujahideen.”

Although “fighting the hostile disbelievers who have invaded our
lands is an individual obligation,” Warsame offers some brief,
non-specific “guidelines” for jihad. Considering that “the Jihad we are
waging today against the enemies is concentrated in or around
residential areas where Muslims live,” the “mujahideen…must take extreme
caution and beware of unjustly shedding the blood of Muslims.” Citing
Islamic texts, he warns that “it is forbidden to take the issue of
Muslim blood lightly” and the jihadists “must understand the severe
consequences of killing a Muslim unlawfully.”

The jihadists should continue to attack their enemies’ “bases and
ambush them wherever they are,” but “extremely cautious with regards to
the blood and sanctity of your Muslim brothers, for illegally killing a
Muslim will lead you to Hellfire.” Warsame adds that “it is obligatory
upon us to safeguard our Jihad from all traits of Ghulu’ [extremism] and
Irja’ [negligence].”

Even so, the jihadists should “[s]trive hard in carrying out
martyrdom operations and constantly remind one another of its virtues,
for there is nothing more detrimental and harmful to the disbelievers
than martyrdom operations and landmines.”

Toward the end of his discussion, Warsame warns Somalis to stay away
from enemy targets. The people should “know that the target of our
operations are the Christian invaders and the apostate regime, foremost
among them being the apostate leaders, soldiers, army officials, members
of parliament, ministers, members of the judicial system, apostate
spies and all those who work in the different sectors of the apostate
regime.”

Of course, the targets Warsame identifies as being in the
“Mujahideen’s theater of operations” encompass much of Somali society —
and some of them serve in a civilian, non-combat capacity. But that is
no accident.

Warsame says that President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed (also known as
“Farmajo”) and “his cohorts are enemies of Allah and disbelieving
apostates.” They have supposedly “sold the land’s resources to Ethiopia
and Eritrea and handed over the seaports to them.”

“In no regard are they considered your leaders, nor are they
competent enough to assume such positions,” Warsame says. “Therefore, it
is obligatory upon you to wage Jihad against the apostate government
and topple their regime.”

This regime-toppling effort requires Shabaab to kill Muslim civilians
— and Warsame will undoubtedly continue to justify such acts.

Thomas Joscelyn is a Senior Fellow
at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Senior Editor for
FDD’s Long War Journal.

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