Recent days have seen Al Shabaab leader Ahmad Umar aka Abu Ubaidah break his long silence in two long audio interviews calling on the middle Eastern Jihadist diaspora. Being the Emir of the Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen, he has been the least visible and vocal of the world’s Jihadist Emirs.
Ayman Al Zawahiri’s to whom he has pledged allegiance, is no better. Having been Osama bin Laden’s second in command, he was the terror group’s most visible face, posting frequent audio and video messages and easily the worst most ‘brutal’ leader after Osama.
This changed however, after he came close to death at least four times in US strikes that had him as the main target. Recent reports state that out of the 10 members of the Al Qaeda Shura council that sanctioned the 9/11 attacks, Al Zawahiri is one of only four who are still alive.
He is now in hiding and even resorts to green screen video technology to disguise his exact locations. Somewhat desperate from the once powerful man.
His feud with ISIS leader, Omar al-Baghdadi is also another factor that drastically reduces Al Qaeda’s global influence, and while Al Qaeda is known for some the most horrific attacks in history, Al Zawahiri considers his ISIS counterparts ‘too extreme’; an absolute paradox considering the parties involved. He has gone as far as to declare ISIS as not a ‘rightly guided caliphate’, calling on his supporters to support the Al-Nusra front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria.
There is a tendency to agree with him however, as Omar al-Baghdadi is now the 57th richest man in the world according to Forbes. These and other factors it seems, have given Al Qaeda and all their affiliates’ some form of chronic inferiority complex, like a terminally wounded gladiator, unable to assert authority in an arena in which they once ruled supreme.
Ahmad Umar’s outfit Al Shabaab continues to suffer the brunt of US, AMISOM and SNA forces as little or no help comes from his Middle Eastern allies, for good reason. Rumours are rife that he is bed ridden and can therefore not perform his normal tasks as emir. If not just a distraction, his call for unity to other Middle Eastern Jihadi movements seems like a desperate attempt to raise dormant passions from persons with way bigger problems than his.
It also works against this almost defunct emir that most of his organisation decry his apparent lack of leadership and charisma as was displayed by his predecessor Ahmed Abdi Godane. You do not need a magician to discern that the Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen are headed for a perilous future.