The spokesman for a Somali Islamist guerrilla group, al Shabaab, held a press conference via the telephone to local media, Radio Garowe on Thursday.
Muktar Robow “Abu Mansur” discussed many issues during the press conference, which included a question-answer session on topics ranging from airport attacks to threats against aid agencies.
He stated that “many false things” have been spread against al Shabaab, including the assassinations of prominent people, but categorically denied any connection to the killings.
“[Da’ar Hersi] Hoshow was committed to the jihad through his voice,” Abu Mansur said, referring to a traditional elder who was assassinated in Beletwein town earlier this week. [ Full story]
He condemned the killing while indicating that Islamist administrators in Beletwein were “investigating the matter.”
Abu Mansur also denied reports that al Shabaab threatened to kill members of a self-appointed clan union, known as the Hawiye Tradition and Unity Council. [ Full story]
“We respect them [Hawiye Council] whose members suffered in jail for defending the jihad,” the al Shabaab spokesman said, adding that the guerrilla had “no problems” with the Hawiye Council.
Abu Mansur, who said he is inside Mogadishu, told reporters that al Shabaab fighters have arrested four people and “will bring them to court” for committing various crimes, where the suspects will be judged under Islamic law.
On Mogadishu’s airport, Abu Mansur said “it is possible” for al Shabaab to reconsider the mortar attacks on the airport “if the people talk.”
He dismissed comments attributed to him about threats to international aid agencies, saying: “We have no specific problems with the aid agencies. But we closed down several offices of IMC and CARE [International].”
Abu Mansur also rejected a comment attributed to him about Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, an Islamist leader who signed a peace deal with the Somali government.
“I never said there is war between us [al Shabaab] and Sheikh Sharif,” Abu Mansur said.
Also on Thursday, a Jubba Airways plane landed safely at Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport without any mortar attacks.
Observers say al Shabaab’s change of tone is linked to changes on the ground, where Islamist fighters are slowly pulling apart as the ideological divide widens.