Al-Shabaab militants are increasingly losing Marehan clan support following constant disputes.
The disputes follow heavy defections, assassinations, leadership wrangles and tax collection that the Mehhan feel they are being exploited.
“The militants have been depending on backing from Marehan clan members in the region to collect taxes and use the area as a launch pad for cross-border operations in Kenya. To lure Marehan clan support, Al-Shabaab has been offering leadership positions to some of the clan members,” a millitary official and Meheran elder told the Star.
Al-Shabaab tax collectors have reportedly increased tax in Gedo region. According to the elders, the taxes are expected to be increased further during the ongoing rainy season, and the clan leaders object.
“Al-Shabaab militants in Gedo have recently been persecuting Mehran clan members. The persecutions have started generating hostility between Al-Shabaab militants and Marehan clan members in Gedo region, Somalia,” a Mehran elder said.
This month, four Al-Shabaab militants from Marehan defected to the Somali government.
“The Marehan militants were emanating from Kukumo Al-Shabaab camp in Gherille. Al-Shabaab militants pursued them and killed one, injured another and the remaining two fled and are in hiding,” a military official said on phone.
The four were reportedly convinced to defect by a former Al-Shabaab commander from Marehan clan Ilkacase Abdikarim. Ilkacase, from Wagardac subclan, had earlier defected from Al-Shabaab in Gedo and surrendered to the Somalia government in Mogadishu.
“Some Marehan clan elders in Gedo are also frustrated by Al-Shabaab militants following an attempted assassination of Sheikh Nur. The Al-Shabaab target is a senior Marehan clan member who was a preacher for the terrorist organization in the region,” a source said.
Al-Shabaab leadership wanted Sheikh Nur to be assassinated at his Wargadud town following his plans to defect to join the Islamic State militants in Puntland, Somalia.
The elders told the Star that the botched assassination attempt has created a rift between Abdirahman Fillow, who is Al-Shabaab governor for Gedo region, and the organization’s intelligence wing (Amniyaat) which was involved in the failed assassination attempt. Both Fillow and Nur are prominent Marehan clan members from Gedo.
Last week, another prominent Marehan leader, Aden Abdi Mohamed alias Aden Ombe, defected to the Somali government. Prior to his defection, Adan was a senior Al-Shabaab cleric responsible for the spiritual guidance of the group’s suicide bombers. The Marehan cleric was also in charge of food and logistics for Al-Shabaab operations in Gedo region.
The tensions have been escalated by recent transfer of Ali Wardey who was relieved off his duties of being in charge of Al-Shabaab finances in Osqurun. The Marehan finance manager has instead been deployed for training at an Al-Shabaab training camp located at Duba village near El Ade in Gedo.
From late April, Marehan clan members were used by Al-Shabaab to vandalize more than a kilometre of the border wall constructed at Bulla Hawa along the Kenya-Somalia border. Al-Shabaab militants depend on the porosity of the border to conduct attacks in Kenya, collect taxes and engage in radicalization and recruitment.