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During a high level meeting of al-Shabaab officials in Somalia's port city of Kismayo today, Sheikh Hasan Dahir Aweys, who was recently missing in action, was named the commander of the group's operation in southern Somalia against allied forces.
In addition to Sheikh Aweys, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow and senior officials of al-Shabaab from Bay, Bakol, Lower Juba, Middle Juba, Gedo, Hiran, Lower Shabelle, and Banadir regions also attended the meeting. This comes as al-Shabaab forces flee cities across southern Somalia due to advances by forces from Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), Kenyan Defense Forces (KDF), Ethiopian troops and the pro-government Ahlu Sunna wal Jamma (ASWJ) militia.
Today, Sheikh Robow's hometown of Baidoa was seized by the Ethiopian and Somali forces.
During today's meeting, officials discussed how to manage the ongoing fighting against the allied forces and how to defend cities that remain under their control, according to a senior official who spoke to Somalia Report on the condition of anonymity for fear of his safety.
“The meeting was held in a mosque and was attended by all the officials of al-Shabaab Mujahideen. We discussed the ongoing operation in southern Somalia and especially the recent attacks by carried out by the infidels on our territory,” said the sheikh who attended the meeting.
“We have set a new strategy to curb the attacks on our positions in Bay, Bakool, Gedo, Lower and Middle Juba. We are going to carry out a retaliatory attack on their positions and also try to stop them from advancing into new positions that are under our control now. Inshallah, God is with us and we will not lose the battle,” he added.
When asked whether they were going to resort to hit and run attack since they have now lost major cities, he replied, “I know we have lost some towns, but we are not going to resort to hit and run attack since we have not lost in the battle. We have withdraw our Mujahideen in a strategic move so that we fight in an organized manner,” added the sheikh.
After he was named the new commander, the source said Sheikh Aweys promised to lead the Mujahiden to victory against the 'infidel' allied forces.
This comes at a time when al-Shabaab is advances form several fronts. Most recently African Union forces declared they are going to attack and capture the town of Afgoye in Lower Shabelle while TFG and Ethiopians troops captured the Baidoa late today. They are also facing fighting from KDF and TFG in Lower Juba and drone strikes from the air.
Weapons Arrive in Kismayo
The sheikh also spoke to Somalia Report about a two boats which reportedly docked in Kismayo on Tuesday night.
“We have received weapons from our friends who were very much pleased with the Jihad that is going on in Somalia. This is the first shipment of many shipments yet to come,” said sheikh.
When asked about who supplied the weapons, he refused to comment on the issue.
“Like I have told you before we got the supplies from our brothers who love Jihad and who are pleased with the way were fighting against the infidels and their Somali brothers who decided to bring them into this Muslim territory,” said the sheikh.
Eye witnesses and laborers in the port of Kismayo confirmed the shipment, in interviews with Somalia Report.
“It was at night and al-Shabaab militants came to the port in big numbers and later this was followed by a number of senior officials who were guarded heavily by militants. They would not allow anyone near the officials,” said Mudey, a local resident who witnessed the scene.
“When the two big boats arrived, all the other boats were ordered to make room and stay away until the ships were offloaded. After they docked, a number of militants offloaded the weapons,” added Mudey.
"I cannot really confirm what the weapons were, but I saw heavy weapons, light firearms and cases of ammunition,” he told Somalia Report.
A laborer who has worked in the port for seven years also witnessed the offloading.
“Late last night two boats carrying weapons docked here. Like we have seen previously, al-Shabaab officials came to witness and take over the weapons. Other boats and local people were advised to keep their distance prior to the arrival of al-Shabaab militants. I remained in the port because no one is suspicious of me since I have been working in the port for the past seven years,” said the laborer who spoke to Somalia Report on a condition of anonymity.
In an unusual move in light of recent drone attacks, the laborer reported seeing top al-Shabaab officials during the arrival of the shipments.
“The officials who came to take over the weapons were Sheikh Hasan Dahir Awey, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow and Fuad Shongole and other officials in Kismayo. I have seen them with my own eyes. They were speaking to the officials in the boat who handed over the weapons to them, and they kept on watch until the last pack of weapons was offloaded,” added the experienced laborer
The local laborer could not verify the details of the boat, but confirmed a variety of weapons was offloaded.
“I do not know who owned the boat, neither do I know where it sailed from because the al-Shabaab officials and their militants did not mention the boats were coming. I believe they did not give prior notice because they were afraid that KDF would carry out air strikes against them,” he added.
“They boats were carrying anti-tank and anti-air missiles. They were also carrying a lot of small fire arms, grenades and ammunition. They were many in number but I couldn't count them, but it took around half and an hour to offload each boat. They were using three trucks which made four trips each," he added.
This comes shortly after al-Shabaab announced its merger with al-Qaeda, leading some to speculate the terrorist group is the one supplying the weapons, however, Somalia Report could not confirm this.