Somali Review’s Week in Focus: Oct. 28, 2016

 Week ending October 28, 2016 

ISIS-affiliate faction takes town in Puntland

A small faction allied to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has taken control of a fishing town along Somalia’s northern coast. The group is led by British citizen Abdiqadir Mumin, a former Al Shabaab commander who declared allegiance to ISIS in October 2015. Last month, the U.S. government designated Mumin a global terrorist.

The group is based in a mountainous area east the port city of Bossaso, Puntland’s commercial hub. This faction splintered from Al Shabaab fighters based in Galgala, west of Bossaso. Galgala mountains have been the epicenter of militant activity in Puntland since 2006.

There were no reports of fighting as the fighters marched into town. VOA reported that ‘about 60 militants’ entered the town and hoisted the ISIS flag at key buildings.

Al Shabaab has struggled to contain splinter groups within its ranks from joining ISIS. The capture of Qandala by groups claiming allegiance to ISIS is the first in Somalia. Some reports suggested that the militants had fled Qandala as Puntland government forces prepared to retake the town.

Somali pirates release 26 Asian sailors after 4 years

Somali pirates freed twenty-six sailors from six Asian countries, reportedly after a $1.5million ransom payment was made to the pirate gangs

The sailors came from Vietnam, Cambodia, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and China and were held hostage aboard the Taiwan-owned fishing vessel FV Naham 3.

The pirates hijacked the vessel in March 2012 “south of the Seychelles”, according to the BBC. Reuters reports that the case “represents the end of captivity for remaining seafarers taken hostage during the height of Somali piracy”.

John Steed, of U.S.-based Oceans Beyond Piracy organization, said the freed hostages were in “reasonable condition” in the face of the obvious physical, mental and emotional impact of a four-year captivity. 

Piracy near Somalia’s waters has declined dramatically since 2012, due to increased international naval patrols at sea and Somali security operations on land. 

Galkayo crisis: 18 killed, 75,000 people displaced 

The city of Galkayo, a trading town in central Somalia, has been locked in a state of war between rival Puntland and Galmudug administrations.

The two sides have fought sporadically since the ongoing military standoff commenced on Oct. 7, with Galmudug opposing Puntland’s plans to build a livestock holding center in Galkayo’s western area. 

The fighting has led to 18 deaths and displaced 75,000 people, according to the UN. In addition, the armed confrontation has affected 20,000 students due to the closure of schools.

The report states that: “All 13 IDP settlements in south Gaalkacyo and another eight in the north of the city have been abandoned. Most of the displaced have fled to the villages and settlements in the outskirts of the town.” 

Al Shabaab recaptures territories vacated by Ethiopian forces

Al Shabaab fighters recaptured two villages vacated by AMISOM troops in Hiran region, central Somalia. Somali federal MP from Hiran region, Dahir Amin Jesow, confirmed to the media that Al Shabaab fighters seized Halgan village after Ethiopian contingent of AMISOM forces withdrew from the town this week.

Ethiopia blamed the ‘lack of support‘ from the international community towards Somali stabilization efforts.

Al Shabaab has increased militant activities – guerrilla attacks and the capture of new territories –  underscoring the militant group’s violent push to step up guerrilla attacks and bombings, as Somalia prepares for parliamentary and presidential elections next month.

Five cities in Somalia are preparing to hold elections for 275 Members of Parliament, with some 14,000 voters participating in the polls.

Since 2007, Al Shabaab has been fighting to topple Somalia’s federal government, which largely relies on Western funding and African military support.

Al Shabaab steps up attacks in Somalia, Kenya 

On Oct. 25th, Al Shabaab militants carried out three attacks in three cities in Somalia and Kenya: Mogadishu, Beledweyne and Mandera.

In Mogadishu, militants assassinated an intelligence officer. In Beledweyne, in central Somalia, a suicide car bomber struck African peacekeepers (AMISOM). In Kenya, Al Shabaab killed 12 people at a guesthouse in Mandera.

The militants continue to engage guerrilla warfare aiming to destablize governing structures in Somalia and in neighboring countries. Kenyan authorities have cracked down on the militants in Nairobi, but there are frequent attacks in Kenya’s Somali inhabited northeastern towns.

Source: Somali Review