In comments made publicly on Friday, top al-Shabab official Hassan Aways confirmed rumors that a growing “internal rift” within the militant movement was responsible for their surprise “tactical retreat” from Mogadishu.
According to Aways, he was making a push for the group to change tactics to “Taliban-style attacks” with less emphasis on controlling territory on the ground. Other leaders in the movement apparently rejected the plan. This might explain why the “retreat” from Mogadishu has been so mixed, with some factions of al-Shabab remaining and fighting in the city.
Reports have been kicking around for awhile that the movement is increasingly splintered between its moderate and hawkish wings, and the group’s unwieldy size since absorbing rival Hizbul-e Islam seems to be a serious liability.
Still, a splintering doesn’t mean Somalia will stabilize, as al-Shabab itself came about from the splintering of an older Islamic Courts faction, with a moderate wing eventually folding itself into the self-proclaimed government as al-Shabab gained huge influence fighting an Ethiopian invasion force.