Friday August 3, 2018
As fighting and fiery rhetoric increase between the Somali region of
Puntland and the self-declared independent state of Somaliland, some
analysts fear that Islamist militant groups may try to exploit any
instability to plant deeper roots in the area.Somaliland
and Puntland have had a long-running dispute over the provinces of Sool
and Sanaag, which run from the Gulf of Aden all the way to the eastern
borders of Ethiopia.
“Our concern is
that were there to be a direct conflict between Somaliland and Puntland,
the security forces will be preoccupied with that, and would not be in a
position to contain Al-Shabab or the Islamic State,” says E.J.
Hogendoorn, deputy director of the Africa Program at the International
“Obviously, this will give them the chance to expand their reach,” he told VOA.
Sool and Sanaag
Violence erupted again this January when
Somaliland troops attacked and captured the town of Tukaraq, which
headquartered a customs station for Puntland.
attack on Tukaraq was carried out while President Mohammed Abdullahi
Farmajo of Somalia was visiting Puntland, in what the ICG described as a
“warning from Somaliland to the Somali government against getting
involved in the contested areas.”
Ali Ibrahim, a development
expert working with an International NGO in Somalia, said it is hard to
determine the strength of the sides in the disputed region.
“Both sides claim they are stronger, well-armed, and have the necessary skills to defend their ‘land’,” Ibrahim said.
Shabab, IS have toeholds
Puntland and Somaliland have enjoyed relative peace and security
compared to the rest of Somalia, there are pockets where al-Shabab and
the IS faction are present and continue to threaten and attack security
forces, mostly in Puntland.
On July 20, al-Shabab seized the
small town of Af Urur, 95 kilometers south of the coastal city of
Bosaso, in Puntland. The town has been a scene of previous heavy
fighting between the terror group and Puntland security forces,
including the attack of June 10, 2017, described as the deadliest on
security forces since Puntland’s founding in 1998.
mountain range that kind of basically spans this region, called the
Galgala Mountains, in which there’s been an al-Shabab faction for quite
some time,” said the ICG's Hogendoorn. “As far as we know, they do
operate within this region. And, depending on whether you consider it to
be Somaliland or Puntland areas, this is an issue."
State in Somalia, which broke away from al-Shabab, is reported to have
presence along the coastal region of Puntland.
“ISIS in Somalia
doesn't control any territory, but maintains influence and a very small
presence in northern Puntland,” said U.S. Air Force Major Karl Wiest,
spokesman of U.S. Africa Command.
In May of this year, IS
fighters attacked a Puntland army base near the town of Qandala on the
Gulf of Aden. They had taken over Qandala twice in 2016 and 2017 before
been driven out by Puntland forces.
“These groups [al Shabab and Islamic State] are a threat to peace and stability of Somaliland and Puntland,” said Ibrahim.
United States has been actively working with the Somali government to
try and degrade the terrorist threats from all parts of Somalia.
violent extremist organizations pose a direct threat to Americans, our
allies, and interests in the region,” Major Wiest told VOA in a written
Over the past seven years, the U.S. has carried out
many drone strikes against terrorist targets in Somalia, most notably
killing al-Shabab emir Ahmed Godane in 2014.
One of those
targeted in Puntland last year was IS faction leader Sheikh Abdulkadir
Mumin. Although regional leaders told VOA that Mumin escaped alive,
several militants were killed.
Over the weekend, a joint
delegation of the East African bloc IGAD and the U.N. Mission in Somalia
visited both Puntland and Somaliland in an effort to ease the tension
around Tukaraq and prevent a full blown war between the two states.
that happens, the terror groups will get an upper hand to grow, peace
and stability will be compromised [and] political and economic
instability [will ensue],” said Ibrahim.
According to Crisis
Group’s Hogendoorn, involving the different clans in addressing the
threat of jihadi expansion in the area, is a more durable solution..
is necessary is for the governments, both federal and state level, to
find more of an accommodation with different clans that currently
support Al-Shabab and Islamic State,” Hogendoorn said. “And, were these
clans to join with the government in opposing Al-Shabab and Islamic
State, that will be a much more durable solution…than any kind of
foreign military operation.”