Profile: Fuad Mohamed Qalaf (Shongole)
This piece is part of a series of al Shabaab leadership profiles.
Fuad Mohamed Qalaf, also known as Shongole, is a senior member in al Shabaab. He holds a seat on the Shura Council and is believed to be in charge of al Shabaab’s operations in Puntland. Shongole is subject to U.S. Treasury Department sanctions under President Barack Obama’s “Executive Order concerning Somalia,” issued on April 12, 2010. The same day, the United Nations sanctioned him pursuant to paragraph 8 of UN Security Council Resolution 1844. The State Department authorized a reward of up to $5 million for information leading to his location on June 7, 2012, noting his operational and fund-raising role for al Shabaab. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the U.S. State Department, and the UN use his alias Fuad Mohamed Qalaf in their respective listings.
Shongole is a member of the Harti clan, a sub-clan of the Darod clan. He took asylum in Sweden in 1992, but returned to Somalia in 2004 to fight with the Islamic Courts Union (ICU). Shongole survived two targeted attacks in 2010; no group claimed responsibility for the attacks. Reports suggested the first, a roadside bomb in Mogadishu’s Bar Ubah neighborhood on February 22, was the work of Hizb al Islam militants. On May 1, two explosions at a mosque in Mogadishu’s Bakara Market killed thirty people. Witnesses said the attack targeted Shongole, but he escaped unharmed. Shongole has been among al Shabaab’s most strident detractors of media organizations, referring to them as agents of the “infidels.” He delivered a speech in May 2009 in Marka, calling on al Shabaab militants to hunt down members of the Waaga Cusub news outlet for its coverage of his group’s tactics. On April 25, 2010, he accused the editors of Voice of America (VOA) and the BBC of treason to Islam for misleading Somali Muslims, and declared them to be the “new unfaithful.”
Shongole’s interests and goals are somewhat unclear due to inconsistencies in his public positions over the past year. A May 2010 International Crisis Group report aligned him with al Shabaab’s leader Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Abu Zubair, in al Shabaab’s “anti-clan” faction. However, his public split with Godane in December 2010 suggests otherwise. Shongole sharply criticized Godane following a series of attacks against Hizb al Islam while the group’s leader, Hassan Dahir Aweys, was negotiating a merger with other al Shabaab leaders. Subsequently, Shongole appeared at a rally with Aweys to announce the merger of al Shabaab and Hizb al Islam, a move that Godane opposed.
December 6, 2011: Shongole along with deputy leader Sheikh Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansur), spokesman Ali Mohamed Rage, Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, and clerics met in Baidoa in Bay region. After the meeting, a statement announced that the al Shabaab would be changing its name to Imaarah Islamiyah (Islamic Authority). Al Shabaab retracted the name change a short time later. (SONNA, Somalia Report, Hiiraan)
March 4, 2011: Shongole attended a ceremony with Sheikh Mukhtar Robow and al Shabaab’s commander of the Bay and Bakool regions, Mahad Omar Abdikarim, to commemorate the deployment of hundreds of newly trained fighters. (Shabelle Media Network)
January 27, 2011: Shongole reiterated his position that al Shabaab fighters should exercise restraint against the TFG, claiming that killing people on mere suspicion of working for the government was a great sin. He also said that suicide bombing was unlawful. (Somaliweyn)
January 25, 2011: Shongole took a more conciliatory tone towards the government, arguing that al Shabaab should end its resistance and work with the TFG. "I call on the Shabaab militia to stop killing innocent people. We should especially stop killing people that we have condemned of spying for the government." (Somaliweyn)
December 28, 2010: Following the merger with Hizb al Islam, Shongole appeared at a rally with Ali Mohamed Rage and Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and expressed his joy at being "witness to the unity of the Mujahideen in Somalia." (Garowe Online)
December 27, 2010: Shongole threatened that al Shabaab would attack the United States if President Barack Obama did not convert to Islam. "We tell the American President Barack Obama to embrace Islam before we come to his country," he said. (AP)
December 18, 2010: Shongole publicly criticized Godane for having “hidden agendas,” revealing an internal dispute among al Shabaab’s leadership. The criticism came after al Shabaab seized the town of Burhakaba from Hizb al Islam, before the once-rival militant groups merged later in the month. (Garowe Online)
Jared Sorhaindo contributed to the research behind this profile.