- The Washington Times - Friday, July 27, 2012

The al Qaeda-linked Somali Islamic militia al Shabab has reshuffled its leadership, which might spark infighting, according to a website that monitors the war-torn country in the Horn of Africa.

At a four-day meeting in the Somali port town of Barawe, the leaders of al Shabab reorganized their chain of command by selecting new leaders for key regional posts, said the Somalia Report website, citing documents and interviews with group members.

Sheikh Ahmed Abdi Godane, also known as Muktar Abu-Zubeyr, remains the overall leader, or emir, of the group, which is battling the U.N.-backed government in Mogadishu and African Union peacekeepers.

But the rest of the group’s hierarchy has been completely reorganized, with some commanders being given authority over regions other than one where they are from — a situation that may cause rifts among leaders in Somalia, where local and tribal ties are very strong, according to Somalia Report.

Al Shabab has been losing ground to international forces recently and has been the target of a punishing campaign of U.S. drone and special forces strikes.

An al Shabab official who spoke to Somalia Report said the shake-up, completed last month, was undertaken in the hope of improving military tactics.