MOGADISHU, Somalia — A commander of Somalia’s Islamic extremist rebels denounced the country’s recent election of a new president and vowed to continue fighting the government, the first official comment from al-Shabab since the president’s election earlier this month.
In an audio message released by al-Shabab’s radio arm Sunday, Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, a senior commander of the extremist group, called Somalia’s new president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed an “apostate” and warned Somalis against supporting him. Mohamed, who holds both Somali and U.S. citizenship, was elected Feb. 8.
The al-Shabab leader also referred the new president as “evil-minded,” recalling his eight-month tenure as the prime minister of Somalia in 2010 and 2011, during which the extremists lost control of Mogadishu, the capital.
“Remember how much harm he inflicted upon Muslims during his time as prime minister,” said Yaqub.
The group has since lost most of its key strongholds across south and central Somalia to a multi-pronged offensive by allied Somali and African Union forces.
Despite being ousted from most of Somalia’s cities and towns, al-Shabab continues to carry out deadly attacks, many by suicide bombers, across large parts of south and central Somalia, including Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab’s assaults threaten this nation’s attempts to rebuild from decades of chaos.