Wednesday, November 05, 2014

As Power of Terror Group Declines, Once-Feared Fighters Defect

By ISMA’IL KUSHKUSH and JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, NYT
NOV. 4, 2014

BAIDOA, Somalia — Bashir was a true believer, a foot soldier who recently quit after seeing too many innocents slaughtered.

Ahmed deserted the Shabab because he wanted a real family, not just a bunch of heavily armed, sociopathic militants who called themselves a “family,” he said.

And young Nurta was a slender assassin, with a bright purple scarf and wide, seemingly innocent eyes.

“There is no life with them,” said Nurta, who like other Shabab defectors requested that her last name not be used for fear of reprisals.

Even before its leader was cut down in an American airstrike in September, the Shabab militant group in Somalia, once one of Al Qaeda’s most powerful franchises, began unraveling. In the past few months, the group has been shedding territory — and fighters.

Dozens of defectors have been staying in a drab, one-story, heavily guarded concrete-block building in Baidoa, a scruffy town in central Somalia.

The picture they paint — in their accounts, and in their mere presence at a halfway house off the battlefield — is one of the Shabab in decline, without a charismatic leader, their ranks thinning, a once powerful organization now partly defanged, though still dangerous.

(More here.)

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