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Two nights ago, rumors began swirling that Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the founding fathers of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) and currently one of al-Shabaab's most senior leaders, had been placed under arrest by al-Shabaab officials and transported from his home in Elasha Biyaha to the southern port city of Marka.
Speculation abounds that Sheikh Aweys was detained by Ahmed Godane, leader of al-Shabaab's fundamentalist, transnationalist faction, over insinuations by Aweys that Godane had been involved in the January 21 assassination of al-Qaeda lieutenant Bilaal al-Barjawi.
The story was reported Monday night on Radio Mogadishu, a news station notoriously partial in favor of the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG), as well as Radio Risaala. When Somalia Report journalists called to verify the claims, employees at both stations relayed that their reports had been based on unsubstantiated rumors.
The reports of Aweys' detention were denied by Sheikh Aweys' family, as well as by al-Shabaab officials contacted by Somalia Report.
Somalia Report was also able to reach associates of Sheikh Mukhtar Robow, a top al-Shabaab commander and an ally of Sheikh Aweys, but our inquiries were met with bewilderment and professed ignorance.
When we contacted one of Sheikh Aweys' secretaries, however, he tersely responded that Aweys was not presently disposed, and suggested directing inquiries to al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Dheere. Calls to Dheere went unanswered.
Somalia Report will continue to monitor developments.
The ongoing rift between the Robow/Aweys and Godane factions within al-Shabaab only widened after October 4, 2011, when militants under Godane's command detonated a truck laden with explosives at the Hargaha and Samaha compounds in Mogadishu, killing dozens of Somali students lining up to receive Turkish scholarships.