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Analysis: Militant attacks in Puntland call for closer collaboration between Puntland and Federal Government

Storyline:National News, Security

By Ahmed Mohamed (Arab)

The ongoing clash between Puntland forces and militants suspected to be allied to ISIL raises concern on the issue of collaboration between the Federal Government and the northern state.

Four days and counting, Puntland has said it has killed 22 militants and lost four of its soldiers in the fight which began Tuesday following a brief capture of Gara’ad town by the militants.

Heavy fighting ensued Wednesday when Puntland forces ambushed the militants who were heading towards the rough terrain along Golis mountain ranges. The militants are reported to have been heading to the mountain ranges where ISIL de facto leader Abdukadir Mumin declared last year his affiliation to Islamic State of the Levant and Iraq, ISIL.

Heavy casualties

Residents of Suuj village in Bari region say the fighters still control part of the area that the fighting broke out four days ago. Reliable sources in Suuj village say that the clash has inflicted heavy casualties on civilians, Puntland forces and Al-Shabaab fighters.

Over sixty people including the clashed forces and civilians have been killed in the last 72 hours, according locals.

Puntland defence minister Abdi Hersi Ali sensationally claimed Wednesday the Federal government was behind the militant attacks to coerce the state to back the 4.5 electoral model adopted in January.

Puntland has vehemently objected the model instead fronting the district based option for the August polls. Puntland President Abdiweli Ali Gaas however distanced himself from the allegations noting his state’s close cooperation with the Federal government.

 Isolationist policy

But Somali analyst Mohamed Abdi sees the minister’s statement as indicative of a wider policy adopted by Puntland towards Mogadishu.

“Somali government sees Al-Shabaab as enemy of the people of Somalia but some politicians and leaders of Puntland translate the internal rift on electoral model between Puntland and the federal government as grounds for enmity” Abdi told Goobjoog News.

Abdi notes this isolationist thinking could further cost Puntland’s fight against militants including Al-Shabaab. The fact that the militants continue to fight back despite little supplies suggests Puntland forces may not win the fight alone, notes Abdi.

“The fighting is in its final stage, they (militants) are being pushed to the corner and they are lacking exit whereas Puntland forces have got home advantage such as reinforcement and can ferry the injuries to major towns like Garowe town,” said Abdi. Yet, Abdi says, it seems that Puntland forces are unable to conclude the operation as estimated earlier.”

Puntland leader, Gaas last week in a media interview said his state did not need assistance from Amisom noting that his forces were sufficient to deal with any militant attacks. But he called for international help to provide parallel support.

Extra military supplies

Somali government Friday dispatched two planes carrying heavy weaponry to reinforce less than two days after Puntland minister for security accused federal government of backing Al-Shabaab fighters.

Speaking to reporters at Aden Adde airport, Somalia’s deputy chief of defense forces Brigadier General Ali Bashe said that the supply of ammunition will play a crucial role in the fight against the extremists.

He added that the Federal government is ready to send combat troops if Puntland forces face challenges to tackle the insurgents.

Much as Puntland has sought a semi autonomous identity from the larger Somalia, it needs the Federal government to deal with matters of insecurity. Al-Shabaab has been hit hard by joint Amisom and Somali National Army operations and the ongoing clash in Puntland is indicative of tough times in the south. Al-Shabaab could find safe havens in Puntland regions where they are not fully under state security control. The Federal Government must equally stretch its hands to embrace Puntland as an integral part of the country in its war against terrorism.

Continuity of Al-Shabaab attacks

Abdi says Al-Shabaab will be active in Somalia and carry out its mission against Somali government and its allies unless regional administrations enhanced collaboration with the Federal government on the fight against the group.

“The breakaway Somaliland does not want the eradication of Al-Shabaab as that will hinder its agenda of secession. Al-Shabaab operates in Puntland and Galmudug states and uses the rivalry of both states as chance to ensure its longevity,” Abdi pointed out.

Al-Shabaab launched a purgatory against elements affiliated to ISIL last year killing a number of them and silencing the group before reports emerge again of their activities.

Al-Shabaab has on many occasions launched deadly attacks on military bases, government offices and hotels in southern and central Somalia. Late last month the group claimed the responsibility of the deadly explosions in Mogadishu and Baidoa towns that killed over sixty people.

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