Somali militant group seeking new territories
Wednesday, January 30, 2013
Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia escaping from African Union forces are causing security scare in Puntland and Somaliland, the autonomous regions of the country struggling to restore central government after more than two decades of civil war.
Chairperson of the African Union Commission on Somalia Amb. Mahamat Saleh Annadif said forces of the Africa Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom) are now in control of all the major urban centres that were previously controlled by the militant group affiliated to global terrorist network Al-Qaida. "They are now waging a guerrilla war from their hiding places in remote areas. Others have mixed with the population while others have run to the autonomous regions," he said.
He was speaking in a press briefing on the sidelines of the 20th Ordinary Session of the African Union Summit in Ethiopia on Monday.
Amisom intelligence indicates that a large number of the Al- Shabaab fighters have crossed into Somaliland and Puntland.
As a result, concern is growing that the terrorists may establish new operation cells in those areas and continue to launch attacks. In the past week, the British government urged its citizens living in Somaliland to leave immediately, citing a credible threat from terrorists.
The British Foreign Office noted, "Kidnapping for financial or political gain, motivated by criminality or terrorism, remains a threat throughout Somalia."
Sale said warning was based on the information regarding the movement of Al-Shabaab to those territories as they escape from the firepower of the Amisom forces. Sale said despite the success by Amisom, the militant group remains a threat to regional security. The group is also blamed for grenade attacks in Kenya that have claimed lives of dozens of civilians and several police and army officers.
AMISOM has been battling the Al-Shabaab militias since 2007 after they overran the administrative structure of the then Somali Transitional Federal Government. The group then set target to expand its activities including killing and kidnapping, prompting the AU to act militarily.
From the initial 3,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi, Amisom troops now include Kenya Defence Forces and Nigeria military trainers and a bolstered force of 9,000 troops.