Spiritual leader of al-Shabaab, wanted terrorist surrenders - KMSP-TV

Spiritual leader of al-Shabaab surrenders to Somali government

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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 there.

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.

CORRECTION:  On July 9, Somalia's ambassador to the United Nations, Idd Beddel Mohamed, informed FOX 9 that Omar Jamal was no longer a representative of the Somali provisional government. A spokesperson for the U.N. Secretary-General confirms that Jamal is no longer listed as part of Somalia's diplomatic mission to the U.N. A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department says it has not accredited any Somali diplomats in the U.S.

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.

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