الشيخ شريف شيخ أحمد born July 25, 1964) is the Commander in chief of the Islamic Court Union (ICU), which controlled Somalia's capital of Mogadishu and much of south and central Somalia until the war in Somalia. Ahmed was born in Shabeellaha Dhexe province, Somalia, and studied at Libyan and Sudanese universities. He is from the Abgaal branch of the Hawiye clan. He has also worked as a secondary school teacher of geography, Arabic, and religious studies. He speaks Arabic, Somali, and English.
He first became involved in the ICU when he was elected to head a small local court in Jowhar. A few years later, a local gang in Mogadishu kidnapped a young student and demanded a ransom from his family in return for releasing their son. This incident was one of countless other kidnappings and killings perpetrated by armed groups in the Somali capital who exploited the disintegration of the central government. This event marked a turning point in the life of Sheikh Sharif Ahmad and his further involvement in the ICU.
In 2004, Sheikh Sharif became one the leading figures in the Islamic courts in the capital. His closest friends and allies include Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, one of the founders of Islamic courts in Somalia and Aden Hashi Farah "Eyrow" whom Washington blames for having connection with Al-Qaeda network and fought in Afghanistan in 2001.
On September 9 2006, Sharif and several colleagues were in Sirte, Libya for an AU ceremony marking the seventh anniversary of a summit of African leaders. In an interview with Reuters and the BBC, he suggested his delegation would seek the help of Libya and other African nations to bring about a rapprochement between the Islamists and the Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG). He said Ethiopia had been hostile to Somalia for more than 500 years and reiterated a longstanding Islamist accusation that Ethiopian forces were intervening in Somalia. Ethiopia denied any of its troops were fighting in Somalia. However, arrangements for an Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD)-led peacekeeping force did not materialize.
On December 28, 2006, after the defeat of the ICU's army, he committed himself to fighting the Ethopian forces in Somalia. After the ICU's defeat in the Battle of Jilib and their abandonment of Kismayo, he fled towards the Kenyan border.
He was detained, with three other Somalis, by Kenyan police on January 21, 2007 near the Hulugo border. He met the US Ambassador to Kenya for talks regarding cooperation with the TFG. He is currently under the protection of Kenyan authorities and staying at a hotel in Nairobi.
On February 1, 2007, the captured ICU leader Sharif Ahmed was released from Kenyan police authorities. He also was reported to have met with Michael Ranneberger, U.S. Envoy to Kenya and Somalia, allegedly to arrange for the release of the captured U.S. troops. By February 8, Sheikh Sharif Sheik Ahmed had gone to Yemen where other ICU members are thought to have also gone. On that day, reports in the Yememi Arabic newspaper Al-nedaa stated Sharif Ahmed's release was the first conditional step to arrange the release of varying reports of 11 or, now, 15 United States Marines allegedly captured during fighting in southern Somalia at the Battle of Ras Kamboni. Four Marines were also alleged to have been wounded in the fighting. However, while these stories of captured American soldiers were prevalent in Somali media, they received little or no attention in the Western media. The capture of U.S. troops had been reported earlier on January 21 by the ICU's Qaadisiya.com site, but denied as "utterly bogus" by Michael Ranneberger.