Ahmed Abdi Godane

Alias/es: Mukhtar Abu Zubair

Status: Deceased (2014)

Organisation/s: Islamic Courts; Al-Shabaab

Nationality/ies: Somali

Travel History: Djibouti (1988) Pakistan (1989); Afghanistan; Ethiopia (2002)

Skills/Education/Occupation: Bachelors degree in economics and MA in Finance and Islamic Banking, International Islamic University in Islamabad, Pakistan

Ahmed Abdi Godane fled to Djibouti in 1988 following the invasion of the Somaliland capital, Hargesia by the Ethiopian backed Somali National Movement (SNM), which precipitated into a regional civil war. In Djibouti, Godane obtained a scholarship to study in Pakistan by a wealthy Saudi Arabian philanthropist. Godane left for Pakistan in 1989 and began his studies in August 1990 at the International Islamic University in Islamabad. During this period, Godane found himself in the company of leaders of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ, an Al-Qaeda affiliated group formerly led by the current leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman Zawahiri). Godane was introduced to Al-Qaeda bases in Pakistan and Afghanistan where he met senior Al-Qaeda leaders including Zawahiri, Abu Xafsi al-Misry, Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri and Ibrahim Haji Jama Mee’aad ‘Al-Afghani’ who became one of his mentors. Godane was instructed in the Al-Qaeda Manual for waging jihad, a widely known 179-page text outlining Al-Qaeda’s operational tactics and ideology.

Godane and Al-Afghani returned to Somaliland in 1997 and had a brief stint in Ogaden, Ethiopia in 2002, where they tried to start a jihadist group with no avail. After a few months, the pair moved to southern Somalia where they proposed to the Islamic Courts, the necessity for a militant wing. Although this was rejected, Godane proved himself useful in assisting the Islamic Courts defeat warlords in Mogadishu and taking control of the capital.

With the emergence of Al-Shabaab in the aftermath of the Ethiopian invasion in 2006, Godane had already risen through the ranks, establishing himself as one of its founding members. In spite of their shared experiences, Godane and Al-Afghani had different ideas for how to lead Al-Shabaab. This came to a head when Godane began purging dissenting (foreign) fighters and likely challengers to his leadership position (like Fazul Abdullah Mohammed). Between 2008 and 2013, senior Al-Shabaab leaders took issue with Godane and his increasingly takfiri approach to jihad which threatened the lives of some of the organisation’s senior leaders and strategic associates, namely Hizbul Islam. This included Mukhtar Robow, Hassan Dahiir Aweys, Omar Hammami and Fuad Mohamed Qalaf. Nonetheless, Godane was on a warpath, allegedly orchestrating the killing of Mohammed in 2011, Al-Afghani and Hammami in 2013, subsequently causing Robow to flee and Hassan Dahiir Aweys to surrender to the government. No doubt, at the time Godane had his own faction namely consisting of Ahmed Umar (who went on to lead the organisation), Abdishakur Tahlil, Ali Mohamed Rage, Hassan Afgoye, Mahad Karate, Bashir Qorgab and Farhan Kahiye to name a few.

Godane was killed in a U.S airstrike in September 2014, leaving behind him a formidable terrorist organisation riddled with deep factional disputes which continue to this day.