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Somalia’s Al Shabab rebels appoint new leader, vow revenge

The group also vowed to avenge the death of Ahmed Abdi Godane, rejecting the Somali president's offer to fighters to lay own arms and seize on a 45-day amnesty.

MOGADISHU // Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab militants have announced the appointment of a successor to their former leader who was killed in a US air strike.

The Islamist group named Ahmad Umar, also known as Abu Ubaidah, as its new head.

Abu Ubaidah is thought to be a devout and ruthless hardliner who was one of the most trusted lieutenants of the group’s late chief Ahmed Abdi Godane, according to experts and analysts.

The group also vowed to avenge the death of Godane and said they would continue their fight to topple the country’s internationally-backed government.

The statement from the group, posted on extremist forums and verified with Al Shabab officials, came after Somalia’s government warned of a wave of retaliatory attacks.

Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud had offered Al Shabab fighters a chance to lay down their arms and seize on a 45-day amnesty, telling them government troops and the African Union’s Amisom force were on the brink of overrunning their territory.

“Avenging the death of our scholars and leaders is a binding obligation on our shoulders that we will never relinquish nor forget no matter how long it takes,” Al Shabab said.

“By the permission of Allah, you will surely taste the bitter consequences of your actions,” it added, while also renewing a pledge of allegiance to Al Qaeda chief Ayman Al Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden’s successor.

On Friday, the Pentagon confirmed Godane died in an attack in which US drones and manned aircrafttargeted a gathering of Al Shabab commanders.

Sources close to Al Shabab said Abu Ubaidah was thought to have been involved in a major internal purge that took place last year, when Godane eliminated several key rivals including a commander thought to be his likely successor.

Abu Ubaidah is also thought to have had a hand in the last year’s killing of Alabama-born Omar Hammami – better known as Al Amriki or “the American” – who was one of the most prominent foreigners fighting in Somalia but who fell out with Godane.

However disinformation cannot be ruled out, another intelligence source said, explaining that the pressure of constant surveillance and drone strikes means Al Shabab may even have named a “ghost” or “given a pseudonym” as a deliberate tactic to protect their real hierarchy.

* Agence France-Presse

Updated: September 7, 2014 04:00 AM

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