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Hassan Dahir Aweys (Somali: Xasan Daahir Aweys, Arabic: حسن طاهر أويس‎) (born 1935) is a Somali political figure who was added to the U.S. government's list of terrorists in 2001.[2] Aweys was the head of the 90-member shura council of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) of Somalia[3] and was viewed as one of the more radical leaders of the Union, which promoted shari'a and directed the militias that took control of the Somali capital of Mogadishu in June 2006. An eight-member executive committee was headed by the more moderate Sharif Sheikh Ahmed,.[4] The BBC stated "It is still not clear which man is more powerful. ".[5] Aweys resigned from the ICU on 28 December 2006, at the end of ICU rule in Mogadishu.

Hassan Dahir Aweis Shiikhuna
حسن طاهر أويس
Born1935 (age 83–84)[1]
Occupationformer colonel
Titleformer hizbul islam leader

He hails from the Habargidir/Ayr subclan within the Hawiye clan.[6]



During the regime of Siad Barre, Aweys was a colonel in the Somali National Army (SNA) during the 1977 Ogaden War against Ethiopia[7] during which he was decorated for bravery.[8]

1994–2002: Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya (AIAI)Edit

Dahir Aweys was part of AIAI leadership which took over large parts of Somalia immediately following the collapse of the Somali Central Government. From 1991 to 1998, AIAI's Gedo Region branch led by former Somali High Court Judge Mohamed Haji Yusuf maintained formidable forces. Gedo district seats of Lugh, Balad Hawo and Burdubo were all run by IAIA forces. Lugh was entirely governed by AIAI. At the time, there were other regional military authority Somali National Front (SNF) running parts of Gedo. Dahir Aweys settled in Lower Shabelle when some disputes came of light in Lugh's Al-Itahad leadership.

On 18 September 1996, the Ethiopian army invaded Lugh and forced out most of the AIAI forces. The following two years, the war front changed into what was later to become the Mountains War of Gedo. And the war this time was between SNF and AIAI. The Ethiopian regime just armed SNF militias. Ethiopians gave SNF an estimated 800 to 1000 small arms and around a dozen heavy weapons. The Gedo war ended when both sides agreed on a truce, and general peace with a peace conference held in El Ade on December 1998 was concluded.

AIAI was destroyed later in the 1990s by a force led by Abdullahi Yusuf and funded by Ethiopia.[5]

On 7 November 2001, Aweys was named a 'supporter of terrorism' in a supplement of Executive Order 13224 of United States President George W. Bush.[9] Aweys is also on the terrorist list of the United States Department of State[10] as somebody who is known as an al-Qaeda operative or who is connected with al-Qaeda.

When Abdullahi tYusuf Ahmed was elected President in 2004, Aweys declared that he would support the new leader, even if he pursued former elements of al-Itihaad, as long as the country was ruled according to Islam.[citation needed]

2004–2006: Islamic Courts Union (ICU)Edit

After the defeat of AIAI Aweys played a key role in setting up a system of courts according to the shari'a by local businessmen desperate for order, becoming its spiritual head. The Courts brought relative stability to areas under its control, after years of turmoil. The Courts' notion of order was strict, including stonings for serious crimes such as rape and murder. At first it only controlled the area of north Mogadishu, but it gained support from many Somali's following the random violence committed by the warlords who controlled southern Mogadishu. Beginning 2004, eleven of these courts folded into an umbrella organization, the Islamic Courts Union, which fielded a formidable militia. A UN report in early 2006 stated that Aweys was receiving military support from Eritrea, as part of the ongoing conflict between it and Ethiopia, though Eritrea denies the claim.[5]

Following the Union's victory in Mogadishu in June 2006, Aweys rose to be the head of the shura committee, replacing Sharif Sheik Ahmed.[11] The Courts' second-in-command Abdulakdir Ali stated day-to-day matters would be handled by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's executive committee.[3][12]

On 21 July 2006, Hassan Aweys, in a radio broadcast, urged holy war on Ethiopian troops stationed in Baidoa to support the UN-backed government of Somalia.[13]

On 19 December 2006, he received medical treatment in Egypt just before the beginning of the war against the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian troops.[14]

On 21 December 2006, as the fighting intensified with Ethiopia, he took a flight to an undisclosed location with Yusuf Mohammed Siad Inda'ade, and rather than news of medical treatment, it was said he was on the hajj.[15]

On 27 December 2006, Aweys, along with a group of several hundred fighters from the Hizbul Islam wing of the ICU fled Mogadishu, presumably to the former AIAI base at Ras Kamboni.[16] On 31 December 2006, he vowed to fight on, and called for others to create an insurgency against the government. Meanwhile, a heavily armed column of government and Ethiopian troops advanced from Mogadishu through Lower Shabelle towards Kismayo. They reached Bulo Marer (Kurtun Warrey district) and were heading to Baravo.[17]

In January 2007, his whereabouts remained generally unknown, but it was believed he was ailing.[14]

2007–2009: Alliance for the Liberation of Somalia (ARS)Edit

In September 2007, he emerged in Eritrea forming a new rebellion.

The Djibouti peace-talks between the ARS and the TFG, however, led to a split in the organisation, with the Djibouti-based "moderate" faction led by Sharif Ahmed eventually signing the agreement and joining the TFG and the Eritrea-based "hard-liner" faction led by Hassan Dahir Aweys refusing to do so and advocating continuation armed resistance.[18]

2009–2010: Hizbul Islam (HI)Edit

In early 2009, four major rebel groups, Aweys' Asmara-based wing of the ARS, Hassan Abdullah Hersi al-Turki's Ras Kamboni Brigade, Jabhatul Islamiya and Muaskar Anole joined together to form a new group called Hizbul Islam, vowing to continue the rebellion against the new government of President Sharif Ahmed.[19] Although the group was initially led by Omar Iman Abubakar, he stepped down on 26 May 2009 in favour of Aweys taking the position of chairman.[20]

On 23 April 2009, Aweys returned to Somalia declaring a war on the African Peace Keeping Forces AMISOM.[21] He made clear that he would not meet Sharif Ahmed saying:

"Mr Sharif's government was not elected by the Somali people and it is not representing the interests the Somali people"[22]

He accused the President of being an instrument of the international community[22] and on 9 May 2009, Hizbul Islam and al-Shabaab tried to topple the Government of Sharif Ahmed[23] by opening the 2009 Battle of Mogadishu, which lasted for months, in which the Islamists managed to gain territory but failed ultimately to topple the regime. Mogadishu residents reported that they saw foreign fighters in the frontline of the battle, raising concerns that Somalia may become the next terrorist safe haven after Iraq and Afghanistan.[24]

In June 2009, it was rumoured he had been killed during the Battle of Wabho. He later dismissed reports that he was killed or heavily injured.[25]

After the Battle of Kisimayo (2009) the group was involved in an unsuccessful power-struggle with al-Shabaab in which Hizbul Islam was ultimately forced to surrender,[26] after which they merged with al-Shabaab on 20 December 2010 under the banner of al-Shabaab, dropping the name Hizbul Islam.[27][28]

2010–2013: Al-Shabaab (HSM)Edit

Aweys was involved in the power struggle between Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansoor) and Moktar Ali Zubeyr (Godane), during which he supported Abu Mansoor in demanding that Godane would step down as the group's Emir.[29] Aweys had been described as Hizbul Islam's political and spiritual leader.[30][31]

In June 2013, Aweys was taken into custody by Somali security forces,[32] denoting the victory of the hardliners in al-Shabab.[33] However, the nature of his arrest—initially being promised talks with government officials and then being roughed up by soldiers when arrested instead—has created concern that it could cause the Hawiye clan of the president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Aweys to split.[34]


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^ a b SOMALIA: Islamic courts set up consultative council, Integrated Regional Information Networks, 26 June 2006
  4. ^ 'Radical' heads new Somali body, BBC News, 25 June 2006
  5. ^ a b c Winter, Joseph, Profile: Somalia's Islamist leader, BBC News, 27 June 2006
  6. ^ Hoehne, Markus Virgil. "Counter-terrorism in Somalia: How external interference helped to produce militant Islamism" (PDF). p. 13. Retrieved 16 May 2012. As introduced earlier, Hassan Dahir Aweys (Hawiye/Habr Gedir/Ayr/Ayaanle) was a colonel in the Somali army who participated in the Ogaden war between Somalia and Ethiopia (1977–1978).
  7. ^ Rice, Xan (26 December 2006). "Retreat fails to quell fears of long war in Horn of Africa". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
  8. ^ "Somalia's High Stakes Power Struggle". The Council on Foreign Relations. 7 August 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
  9. ^ Suspected Terrorist List, list maintained by the U.S. Commonwealth of Massachusetts
  10. ^ Meet the Press U.S. Senator Russ Feingold calls Aweys "an al-Qaeda operative or somebody that is connected with al-Qaeda." 25 June 2006
  11. ^ "Militant leader emerges in Somalia". New York Times. 25 June 2006. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
  12. ^ Ethiopia says Somalia 'a threat', BBC News, 28 June 2006
  13. ^ "Somali Militant Urges Holy War on Ethiopia". Associated Press. 21 July 2006. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 15 January 2007.
  14. ^ a b "West 'backing the wrong horse' in Mogadishu peace initiatives". The East African. 29 January 2007. Archived from the original on 2 February 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-29.
  15. ^ "Somalia: Top Islamist officials leave for unknown destination". SomaliNet. 21 December 2006. Archived from the original on 17 January 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
  16. ^ "Former Members of Radical Somali Group Give Details of Their Group". Voice of America. 6 January 2007. Archived from the original on 8 January 2007. Retrieved 8 January 2007.
  17. ^ Yusuf, Aweys Osman (31 December 2006). "Islamists vow a rebellious war as Ethiopian troops head to Kismayu". Archived from the original on 3 March 2007. Retrieved 2007-01-05.
  18. ^ ARS Central Committee conference opens in Djibouti Archived 2 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ allafrica Islamists want to keep fighting against the new government
  20. ^ 7 killed in violence, Aweys crowned Hizbul Islam chief
  21. ^ DPA (23 April 2009). "Prominent Islamist returns to Somalia after two-year exile". Retrieved 1 May 2009.
  22. ^ a b Mohamed, Mohamed (28 May 2009). "Somalia's kingmaker returns". BBC News. Retrieved 4 May 2009.
  23. ^ "UN Somalia envoy accuses Islamist of coup attempt". 14 May 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
  24. ^ "Foreign fighters are 'our Muslim brothers': Al Shabaab". 12 May 2009. Retrieved 18 May 2009.
  25. ^ Aweys Resurfaces to Dispel Claims of Being Wounded
  26. ^ "Hassan Dahir Aweys of Hisbul Islam leader joins Al-shabab militias". Mareeg. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  27. ^ "Profile: Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys". Critical Threats. 3 August 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  28. ^ "Al-Shabaab and Hizbul-Islam Officially Join Together". Demotix. Retrieved 15 February 2015.
  29. ^ "Al-Shabaab Leader Admits Split". Somalia Report. Archived from the original on 22 October 2012. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  30. ^ Leftie, Peter (15 November 2011). "Somalia: Missile Raid Targeted Top Shabaab Leaders". Retrieved 2011. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  31. ^ "Three al-Shabaab feared dead". Monitor. Retrieved 7 November 2012.
  32. ^ "Prominent militant arrested in blow to Somali Islamists". Reuters. 26 June 2013.
  33. ^ "Will Somali Islamist purge strengthen al-Shabab?". BBC News. 4 July 2013.
  34. ^ Somalia and its Shabab: Are the Islamists truly on the ropes?

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