Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
Compelled by the kidnapping of one of his students by warlords in 2003, schoolteacher Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed helped found Somalia's Islamic Courts and became its popular moderate leader.
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When one of Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's 12-year-old students became the victim of a wave of kidnappings sweeping Mogadishu in 2003, the schoolteacher who had served as head of a small court in Jowhar became more deeply involved in Somalia's court system. The abduction had taken place in the CC area, the land ruled by Ahmed's own clan, which disturbed him and compelled him to create, with the help of local leaders, an Islamic Court in CC. Under his leadership, the then five other regional Islamic Courts united to form the Islamic Courts Union (ICU).
Ahmed's vision was that each individual Sharia court should act as a mini-state charged with ensuring "peace and stability, to settle disputes, raise awareness and help guide their citizens" (source: Al Jazeera English News http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/6ED1B6BD-5CA4-46AF-AA25-FF3DA9DA5549.htm)
By the end of the 2004, Ahmed had become one of the leading figures in Somalia's justice system. He had worked with Mohammed Dhere, a fellow clansman and local warlord against Abdulkassim Salad Hassan, whose government was trying to gain control of Mogadishu two years earlier.
Alliances with Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Aden Hashi Farah "Eyrow," two men whom the U.S. suspected of links to al-Qaeda, put him under suspicion, but Ahmed has vehemently denied connections to terrorist groups and has since solicited a more favorable reputation. He also suggested in 2006 that Somalia must seek external links and involve other African nations in repairing the rift between the Islamists and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).
The ICU ruled the capital and large parts of south and central Somalia for about six months before they were driven out in December of 2006. During this period, the ICU was divided between strict and more moderate members, Ahmed aligning himself with the more moderate side.
In order to end what Ahmed claimed was a several hundred year old struggle against a hegemonic and imposing Ethiopia, Ahmed declared jihad against its neighboring nation. The war lasted only a few short weeks before Ahmed and his troops were forced to retreat. Ahmed and three of his fellow leaders of the campaign were captured and detained in late January 2007 by Kenyan police before engaging in talks with the U.S. Ambassador to Kenya concerning cooperation with the TFG.
Currently, Ahmed is living in Nairobi under the protection of the Kenyan government.
To many, especially in his home region, Ahmed is a hero who "removed nearly 300 roadblocks around the country, re-commissioned Mogadishu International airport and seaport, all the while extending its hand to the...TFG" and significantly lessened violence and feuding between warlords (source: Hiiraan Online http://www.hiiraan.com/news2/2007/jan/hol_person_of_the_year_2006_sheikh_sharif_sheikh_ahmed.aspx).
Western governments and the United Nations are also urging the Somali government to reconcile with moderates such as Ahmed.
Photo from: http://www.biyokulule.com/Sheikh%20Ahmed2.jpg
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
(At a Glance)
Date of Birth: Jul/25/1964
Place of Origin: Somalia
On July 25, 1964, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed was born into the Abgaal branch of the Hawiye clan in the Shabeellaha Dhexe province, Somalia. A student of geography at Universities in Libya and Sudan, Ahmed graduated in the mid-1980s and returned home to teach geography, Arabic and religious studies.
Before he fled to Kenya in 2007, Ahmed lived with is wife and their two sons Ahmad (9) and Abdullah (a toddler) in Mogadishu.