Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is one of the most
wanted terrorists in the world, but he is now in custody in Mogadishu
after he surrendered himself to authorities in Somalia.
In Minnesota, Aweys is a controversial figure for the local Somali
community. Some claim he's a war hero, but others believe him to be a
criminal. During the trial of two Rochester women convicted of funneling
money to terrorists overseas, he played a shadow role. Wiretaps revealed
the money went to him, a spiritual leader for al-Shabaab.
There is an enormous amount of infighting within the terror group al-Shabaab,
especially since several top leaders have been killed. Now, a
78-year-old man regarded as a major leader has turned himself in.
Pictures show Aweys boarding a plane back to Mogadishu in the company of
armed guards. Now, he is in custody and being questioned by officials
Yet, the situation is complicated because Aweys is a former war hero, a
decorated general who fought Ethiopia in the 1970s and is a founding
member of the Islamic courts. Within the Somali community, there is
plenty of disagreement over who he is and what should happen next. Many
of the opinions fracture along clan lines.
Omar Jamal represents the Somali government at the United Nations, and
he explained that support for Aweys usually comes from members of his
own clan because they have a blind spot for his crimes.
"If Hitler had been Somali, there would've been a clan that would
support him," Jamal said.
The United Nations, INTERPOL and the U.S. all consider Aweys a
terrorist, linking him to dozens of terror attacks on hotels and markets
in the 1990s, countless suicide bombings in Somalia and U.S. Embassy
bombings in both Kenya and Tanzania.
Taking him into custody could become a major test for the Somali
government in regards to how they handle Aweys, but it remains unclear
whether they will allow extradition to the U.S. or elsewhere to face
terrorism charges. There is also concern the government may use him for
propaganda purposes against al-Shabaab.