MOGADISHU, Somalia – The recent Kenya Westgate Mall terrorist attack has brought al-Shabaab to the news forefront. The group claimed these actions were perpetrated due to retaliation against the 2011 Kenyan forces advance into their Somali territory . Yet, a different story began to emerge. One which reveals the motivation for this horrific attack had more to do with muscle flexing and al-Shabaab leadership infighting .
In fact, as recent as June, 26 the group leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, (also known as: Mukhtar Abu Zubeyr), ordered the execution of several of his top commanders. Godane was accused of becoming tyrannical, behaving as a brutal dictator in un-Islamic leadership style, and going insane. He was further accused of straying from the path of true Jihad. One of the first to reveal these group divisions was Omar Shafik Hamami, born in Alabama, U.S.A. Otherwise known to the group as “Abu Mansoor al-Amriki,” meaning “The American.”
News reports on August, 4 indicated that profound fighting exploded in lower Shabelle, Somalia. This battle occurred due to dissent within the group, at odds over ideations. Followers of al-Shabaab’s Chief, Ahmed Godane and former Sheikh Mukhatar Robow, fought for approximately seven hours, leaving multitudes dead . Godane later became accused of recklessness, manipulation of Islamic legal concepts, ignorance, attempting to start a civil war within al-Shabaab and of mistreatment of foreign jihadists, such as al-Amriki (with notion to assassinate them). In fact, the group experienced so much dissention that in April, 2013, the conflict is stated to have become irreconcilable. Islamic extremist websites distributed a letter touting rumors of Godane’s inappropriate behavior. Interestingly, this letter was addressed to al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Of note, Abu Mansoor al-Amriki, the American, was reportedly killed on September 12, 2013.  .”
This account of the infighting and squabbling within a terrorist organization can be understood if viewed through a certain perspective. Behaviorally, it reveals something of insightful relevance. Indeed, it is a showcase of gang manners. While gangs usually fight each other, history reveals this type of gang infighting has also occurred. One example of this is in the case of the ‘Crips’ gang of Los Angeles. In 1971 a gang known as the Piru Street Boys associated themselves with the Crips. Things were fine; however, after a few years, the alliance then became violent and gang combat broke out. Eventually the Piru Street gang members broke away from the Crips, only to become a gang known as the “Bloods .” The Crips and Bloods remain rivals to date.
Individuals that join gangs, and terrorist groups/gangs alike, hold to a common behavioral trait: Low self-esteem. The low self-esteem drives them to gain a sense of belonging within the community. Many times individuals with low self esteem also grapple with life purpose. Somalia has been in a state of anarchy and chaos for years. In such an environment, individuals fight to survive, and many times group belonging becomes essential. In an article dated April 30, Majid Ahmed, reporter in Mogadishu, cites Omar Ali Roble, a former minister for Disarmament and Reintegration of Militias in Somalia. “The al-Amriki assassination attempt by Godane is a clear sign that the rift between the al-Shabaab leader and the foreign fighters has become a direct war… They are hunting each other down, which is clear evidence that al-Shabaab was never about religion or jihad, but a group of criminals that came together to kill the Somali public under the pretence of religion.” The infighting among the al-Shabaab terrorist gang reveals fighting between al-Qaeda aligned foreign fighters has represented a danger to the goals of Godane, al-Shabaab’s leader. Godane is cited as having implemented the ‘divide and rule’ strategy in attempts to rid al-Shabaab of the foreigners with opposing ideals .
If al-Shabaab is profiled as a terrorist gang, the behavior of infighting among gang members can be understood. Tribal and ethnic lines are oftentimes used to form new gangs and to segregate outsiders. It could be significant that those of foreign ethnicity were targeted and sought out for assassination by Godane. Thus, not only has gang infighting occurred, but a cultural clash as well.
 Straziuso, J. & Odula T. (2013). Kenya mall explosion: black rocks complex held hostage by islamic extremists.
 Tisdall, S. (2013). Kenya attack is product of brutal power struggle within al-shabaab, westgate mall atrocity looks like statement of intent by hardliner ahmed abdi godane after consolidating power over group. The Guardian.
 Somalia: Al-Shabaab militants fight each other over leadership wrangles (2013). Garowe Online.http://www.garoweonline.com/artman2/publish/Somalia_27/Somalia_Al_Shabaa...
 Mugisha, R. (2013). Uganda: Is al-Shabaab disintegrating? All Africa.http://allafrica.com/stories/201309090073.html
 Wikipedia, Free Encyclopedia (2013). Abu mansoor al-amriki
 Wikipedia Free Encyclopedia (2013). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crips
 Ahmed, M. (2013). Al-amriki and foreign fighters in showdown with al-shabaab leader. Sabahi. http://sabahionline.com/en_GB/articles/hoa/articles/features/2013/04/30/...