A college teacher who is the son of a senior police officer has been found guilty of leading al-Shabab's operations in Mogadishu for several years.
A military court in Mogadishu sentenced Mohamed Haji Ahmed to death on Tuesday. Prosecutors wanted to file charges connecting Ahmed to the death of more than 180 people. But in the end, he was convicted for being behind the assassination of three generals, a police corporal and a deputy attorney general.
In a video recorded and released by the court, Ahmed confessed to working as head of operations for al-Shabab in Mogadishu.
"I was head of operation of the city, the region," he said in the video. "There was nothing more nerve-wracking than sending out someone to do something…what will happen to them? Have they been killed?"
He said after an operation, al-Shabab bosses would call him to learn details about how it went, who fired the shots, and how many bullets were fired.
He would also send information to al-Shabab's radio station, Radio Andalus, so the group could claim responsibility for attacks and use it as propaganda.
The court sentenced six other al-Shabab members to death, four of them in absentia. An eighth Shabab member was given life imprisonment.
A woman who worked at the Somali Women's Headquarters was also convicted for passing information about the movement of government officials to al-Shabab. Fadumo Hussein Ali, also known as "Fadumo Colonel," was sentenced to 15 years in prison.
Ahmed, 27, from Bulomarer town in the Lower Shabelle region, has used multiple aliases over the years to evade authorities.
Somali security forces said they have been hearing his name since 2014, when al-Shabab suspects arrested for carrying pistols in Mogadishu's Hamarweyne district said a man they identified as "Hudeyfi" gave them the guns to carry out assassinations. The following year, more detained al-Shabab suspects mentioned the same name.
In January 2016, authorities arrested a man whose phone they had tracked because of contacts with known al-Shabab figures. He told the court he was a college teacher, which was verified, and he was released on bail. At the time, the officials did not realize that the man they arrested, Ahmed, was indeed Hudeyfi.
Over the following years, Ahmed used several other aliases. On November 2, 2016, a traditional elder was killed in Mogadishu. Two men arrested by the police in connection with the killing named their supervisor as "Dahir."
On December 2018, twin blasts near the National Theater in Mogadishu killed at least ten people including prominent television journalist Awil Dahir Salad. The two men captured in connection with the bombing named "Ilkacase" as co-conspirator.
Police have since established that Hudeyfi, Dahir, Ilkacase and Ahmed are the same person. On Tuesday, Ahmed confirmed this information to the court.
"I was originally known as Hudeyfi, but I worked with different groups and I gave a different name to each group," he said.
On Tuesday, Ahmed was convicted for the murder of police corporal Mohamed Omar Sheikh Osman, killed in a mosque on February 24 2017; the assassination of military General Abdullahi Mohamed Sheikh Qururuh, killed September 24, 2017; the assassination of Somali deputy attorney general Mohamed Abdirahman Mohamud on February 20, 2019; and the assassination of police General Mohamud Haji Alow on April 27, 2019.
He was also convicted for the assassination of police General Ismail Ahmed Osman on October 28, 2016. Ironically, Ahmed lived in Osman's house in the town of Marka when he was a high school student, after his father asked Osman to help his son, security officials say.
Military courts' prosecutor General Abdullahi Bule Kamey described Ahmed as a "merciless killer."
"His crimes are unmeasurable," General Kamey said. "He killed the man who raised him, the hand that fed him, General Ismail," Gen. Kamey said.
The prosecution said Ahmed spared his father's life only because he wanted to use him as a cover. "He let him live so that he bails him out when captured," Kamey said.
Ahmed's lawyers argued that their client should only be punished for the cases that can be proven before a court.
VOA Somali contacted an official at a Mogadishu college where Ahmed taught. The official, who asked that the college not be identified for fear of reprisal, says Ahmed taught English for two years as a part-time teacher. He left in March 2019, two months before he was arrested. The official says the college did not know about his connections with al-Shabab.