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Death of al-Qaida Leader in Somalia Could Affect Peace Process


The United States is calling the death of Aden Hashi Ayro in Somalia a victory against terrorism. But will it have an effect on the fighting in Somalia between forces of the Transitional Federal Government and various militias and armed groups, including the Shebab Islamist militia?

Matt Bryden is an independent analyst and expert on Somalia. From New York, he spoke to VOA English to Africa Service reporter Joe De Capua about the death of one of al-Qaida’s top leaders in east Africa.

“First of all, it’s an important success for the US and their allies in Somalia. Ayro was a key and recognized leader of the Shebab, al-Qaida’s affiliate in Somalia. And as an individual, he was certainly one of those who had close links to the members of al-Qaida known to be in Somalia. And it shows that the efforts of the US, and presumably others – the Somali partners and possibly Ethiopians on the ground – are paying off. That they do have actionable intelligence on the Shebab and are able to conduct a strike like this. So, it shows the vulnerabilities of the Shebab leadership. And symbolically because Ayro was a known and visible figure, it’s a very important development,” he says.

As for the effect Ayro’s death may have on peace efforts and a possible government of national unity, Bryden says, “I think generally this is going to be viewed as a positive development. Ayro was seen as a problem, not only because of his links to al-Qaida and his membership in the Shebab per se, but because the Shebab and he personally have been seen as an obstacle to stability in parts of Somalia. He was most active in Central Somalia and also very much opposed to any dialogue between the Transitional Federal Government and the mainstream opposition, the Alliance for the Re-liberation of Somalia. He and the Shebab are potential spoilers, certainly would like to be. And I think this will help to create a little more confidence in the process and clear one of the potential obstacles,” he says.

Bryden adds, however, that it doesn’t mean Ayro’s death also spells the end of the Shebab. “It’s not clear whether operationally this is going to have a major impact on the Shebab.” The Shebab is one of the leading groups involved in the fighting in the capital, Mogadishu.

The analyst ranks Somalia as a “secondary front” in the war against terrorism. “ He says that the country’s profile was raised greatly following the Ethiopian invasion and the subsequent US air strikes. “That put Somalia on the map and persuaded many observers that it is a new front on the war on terror,” he says.