UPDATE: Al-Shabaab leader reportedly dies due to Illness
Al-Shabaab’s emir Ahmed Dirie better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Ubaidah, has reportedly died in Jilib town of southern Somalia, according to a senior military commander. If confirmed, Abu Ubaidah would be the group’s third leader in thirteen years, and the first not to be killed by a U.S. airstrike.
Ismail Sheikh Isack, the commander of the 43rd battalion of Somali National Army (SNA) in an interview with Somali military-owned radio station said Ahmed Dirie died on Monday due to a kidney-related illness. The commander stated that the Al-Shabaab leader passed away in the southern areas under Al-Shabaab control on Monday 25 June.
It has been rumoured within intelligence circles for months that Abu Ubaidah’s health was ailing. In recent weeks, credible sources have revealed that the group was considering electing a new leader.
Little is known about the secretive Abu Ubaidah. He is believed to be in mid-to-late forties and a native of Qalaafe (Kelafo) in the Somali region of Ethiopia. Although disputed, intelligence analysts suspect that he hails from the Dir clan. It’s also believed that he taught Qur’an to children in the southern port city of Kismayo. In his formative years, it is alleged that he was an active member of Al-Ittihad Al-Islamist movement – a now-defunct Islamist militant movement that was active from the early 1990’s through the mid-2000’s. The group was considered as a terrorist organization by the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.
Before leading Al-Shabaab, Abu Ubaidah was the group’s “Waali” or governor in the Bay and Bakool region and was an integral part of Al-Shabaab’s shadowy intelligence wing known as “Amniyat”. A senior figure in Al-Shabaab described him as being “fiercely loyal” to his predecessor Godane.
The U.S. has placed a $6 million bounty on Abu Ubaidah’s head.
Al-Shabaab has strongly denied the death of their leader saying he was “alive, well and busy performing his obligations”.