A top cleric affiliated with Somalia’s Al-Shabaab militant group has given Daesh and its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, his stamp of approval.
“Any emirate in the world that opposes it [Daesh] and opposes the caliphate under Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is unlawful,” Sheikh Hassan Hussein Abu Salman said in an audio that has yet to be authenticated.
He said he had no objections to Al-Shabaab declaring allegiance to Daesh, which now controls large areas of Syria and Iraq and commands the allegiance of various militant groups in a number of Arab and African countries.
Abu Salman became the first Al-Shabaab cleric to publicly declare his stand regarding a possible merger between the two groups.
He hinted at an ongoing debate within Al-Shabaab as to whether or not to join Daesh.
Recent gains by Daesh in Iraq and Syria have led a number of Al-Shabaab militants, mostly low-ranking foreign fighters, to join Daesh.
On March 6, pro-Al-Qaeda and pro-Daesh factions within Al-Shabaab fought each other in the town of Jilib.
The pro-Daesh faction is led by Mukhtar Robow, while Al-Shabaab leader Ahmad Umar remains loyal to Al-Qaeda.
Last week, the pro-Daesh faction reported through an affiliate website that 1,700 Al-Shabaab fighters would soon be declaring allegiance to al-Baghdadi.
“The emergence of Daesh is likely to impact security in Somalia and the region,” Ali Himale, a UK-based Somali analyst, told The Anadolu Agency.
“It may be a rebirth for a no-longer-strong Al-Shabaab, giving it access to weapons and finance, which it has desperately needed after losing seaports that were its main source of revenue,” he noted.
“But it may also be the beginning of the end for the group, due to the infighting,” Himale added.
Al-Shabaab has recently sustained several significant blows, losing most of its strongholds in southern and central Somalia to government and African Union troops.
Nevertheless, the group has continued to launch deadly attacks on government officials and security personnel.