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Tribal chiefs reject al-Shabaab’s tax bill

July 16, 2012

In late June, government forces captured several strongholds that al-Shabaab used to collect revenues from the public.  While al-Shabaab a terrorist organization with one of the biggest budgets in the world, it has a high burn rate.  It uses its money to feed, clothe, and arm its fighters, and to administer its perpetual war against the population and the government.  Without the revenue bases and facing continued military opposition, al-Shabaab has issued a plea for funds from the same tribes they have oppressed.  From Sabahi on June 26:

Al-Shabaab leader appeals for donations as security forces push forward

Following the capture of a number of key town and port cities by Somali and allied forces in recent weeks, the al-Shabaab movement is beginning to show significant financial strain.

In an audio message posted in an Islamist chat room on Saturday (June 23rd), Sheikh Yusuf Isse “Kaba-kutukade” — the al-Shabaab leader for Lower Shabelle — called on Somali businessmen, expatriates and supporters in exile to make donations to the organisation so it can defend itself and protect the dwindling areas under its control.

“I urge you to respond to this movement with goodness and virtue, and give your money and sacrifice yourselves in the name of the true path of jihad,” he said in his message.

Fadumo Mohamed Sheikh Nur of the Somali Ministry of Defence said al-Shabaab is showing severe signs of financial strain and has regressed in its fighting tactics as a result of internal conflicts within the group.

“Al-Shabaab announced it was under the strain of a severe financial crisis and may not be able to continue fighting [...] because their ammunition has run out and because of the low morale among senior Somali and foreign leaders, some of whom are detained at the central prison while others surrendered to the government forces over the past four months,” she told Sabahi.

She added that Somali troops are expanding the scope of their fighting in an attempt to crush terrorist groups in the central and southern parts of the country before the transitional government’s mandate expires on August 20th.

Political analyst Amran Jama Aadan said al-Shabaab is becoming unable to defend its strongholds because of the lack of equipment, training and money. As a result, the organisation has resorted to hit and run attacks and guerrilla warfare on military convoys.

Fortunately, the tribal elders aren’t interested in helping al-Shabaab make up for its revenue gap.  More recently on July 3:

Somali tribes reject al-Shabaab call for financing its war efforts

Somali tribal leaders and officials have condemned al-Shabaab’s recent calls for tribes to join the group’s war efforts and fund its terrorist activities.

“Somali tribes have suffered from al-Shabaab’s cruel and criminal activities and now all tribes have become well aware that al-Shabaab is their enemy and the enemy of peace, progress and prosperity,” said Mohamed Hassan Haad, leader of the Hawiye tribe, one of the largest and most widespread tribes in the central areas.

“The tribes have also realised that al-Shabaab has been a plague on the people of Somalia, which is why Somali tribes cannot be accomplices with this group or respond to periodic calls from its leaders,” he said.

On June 18th, al-Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Mukhtar Abu Zubair, called on Somali tribes to join the group’s so-called jihad. Then, on June 23rd, Yusuf Sheikh Isse, alias Kaba-kutukade, al-Shabaab’s leader in Middle Shabelle region, called on Somali tribes and businessmen to contribute to the group’s self-defence and its efforts to protect areas under its control.

Haad told Sabahi that calls by al-Shabaab’s leaders to support and fund their armed activities are nothing new. “We call on all Somali tribes not to provide any form of support to radical groups that reject peace,” he said. “On the contrary, we encourage the tribes to fight al-Shabaab.”

Tribal leader Sultan Mohammed Saeed also called on citizens to rise against the al-Qaeda-allied organisation.

“We call on residents living in the areas under rebel control to start a popular uprising and to reject the radicals’ outrageous acts,” he told Sabahi.

“We encourage the tribes to stage revolutions against al-Shabaab, inspired by revolutions in some Arab countries. We are certain that the tribes are capable of expelling the radical al-Shabaab group from their areas, if they have an honest and strong will to do so,” he said.

Saeed said tribes can play a significant role in the war against al-Shabaab by helping the government expel its members from their areas and by passing on information to the security services regarding the organisation’s movements.

Al-Shabaab harasses locals

Hussein Mohamud Osoble, a commander in the pro-government Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa militia, said al-Shabaab “relentlessly blackmails and terrorises innocent civilians”.

“They have been imposing huge taxes on tribes living in the areas under its control in the central Galgadud region,” he said. “Militants have imposed fines on clans and local residents ranging between $6,000 and $9,000, according to the size of the clan, in the eastern part of the Galgadud region, with the goal of financing their terrorist activities.”

Osoble said local residents have no choice but to pay the money for fear of the consequences.

Political analyst Abdiqadir Muse says al-Shabaab imposes taxes on tribes because its funding sources have dried up as a result of losing control of important cities and areas that provided income for the group.

“Since al-Shabaab has lost many strategic locations and big cities over the past few months, the group has been in critical condition and unable to pay its fighters’ salaries due to the group’s shortage of funding,” Muse told Sabahi.

“As al-Shabaab’s funding sources have started to dry up, the group has resorted to imposing taxes and huge fines on the tribes,” he said.

Misinterpreting Islam to justify theft

Lawmaker Mohamed Omar Gedi said al-Shabaab has started to steal livestock from citizens in Juba on the pretext of collecting zakat.

“The radicals sell the stolen livestock on the market to finance their terrorist attacks against the Somali people,” he said. “This kind of behaviour is damning evidence that the radicals’ practices are unrelated to Islam because Islam forbids stealing livestock from poor people and using the money to finance unjust wars against the people.”

Gedi said al-Shabaab has resorted to several other methods to finance its terrorist activities, such as kidnapping foreigners for ransom and conspiring with Somali pirates.

Sheikh Ahmed Dhiisow, who heads the Council of Religious Scholars of Somalia, said al-Shabaab does not have the religious authority to collect zakat. He said al-Shabaab misinterprets Islam and is ideologically deviant, which is why its members have been proud to announce that they are disciples of al-Qaeda in Somalia.

“What al-Shabaab is doing in Somalia cannot be called jihad. The concept of jihad is to empower the weak, protect Muslim land and spread Islam — not to vilify Muslims and blow up innocent people,” Dhiisow told Sabahi.

Of course what al-Shabaab is doing is not a “misinterpretation” of Islam, but an extension of Islam.  Abduction of infidels for ransom is permitted by the Koran.  Zakat can indeed by given to the mujahideen to fight in the cause of Allah according to the Koran and Hadith.  The question of who is permitted to collect zakat is probably, according to Muslim history, been within the purview of the caliph—but there is no caliphate today.  Al-Shabaab probably feels that this activity is not theft, but their Islamic duty.

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