, MOGADISHU, Mar 9 – Gunmen on Tuesday killed a Somali Islamist military leader critical of his group\’s recent merger with the Al Qaeda-inspired Shebab movement, officials and witnesses said.
Bare Ali Bare was a senior military leader for the Ras Kamboni group but had made no secret of his opposition to a decision by his leader, Sheikh Hassan al-Turki, last month to join Shebab, who control most of the country.
He was killed in a Mogadishu market.
"Armed militiamen shot the commander dead in Bakara market and we are still investigating who the assailants are," senior insurgent leader Sheikh Mohamed Adan told AFP.
"He was a senior member in our group and we are very concerned about his killing, it is a blow to us," he added.
Ras Kamboni had been a component of Adan\’s Hezb al-Islam insurgent group, which is theoretically allied with the Shebab in a drive against the UN-backed government but has been at odds with its larger partner.
Bare Ali Bare had merger and remained loyal to overall Hezb al-Islam leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys.
Witnesses told AFP they saw Bare shot down by two men as he walked near a pharmacy in Bakara market, a northern Mogadishu neighbourhood and Shebab stronghold.
"They shot him several times in the head near a place with several pharmacies in Bakara market and they ran away after the shooting," Abdi Moalim Leb, a local grocer, said.
The Shebab and Hezb al-Islam, the two main Islamist insurgent groups in Somalia, are loose alliances of clanic militias and military fiefdoms that often fight between themselves.
Over the past year, the Shebab leadership has changed to integrate foreigners with ideological ties to Osama bin Laden\’s Al Qaeda, while Hezb al-Islam remained a movement with a more political agenda.
Since the start of the year, Mogadishu and other parts of central and southern Somalia under insurgent control have been bracing for a major offensive by the government and the African Union peacekeeping mission.
But much of the fighting in recent weeks has been internecine. Two of the Shebab\’s top leaders are believed to have been injured in recent incidents which have not yet been fully elucidated.