Somalia: Puntland troops to ‘liberate Qandala’ from ISIS faction
Last week, government forces in Somalia’s northern Puntland state commenced a military offensive to retake the coastal town of Qandala, which was seized on Oct. 26 by a group of ISIS-linked militants led by a Puntland-based cleric.
Yusuf Mohamed Dhedo, governor of Puntland’s Bari region where Qandala is located, told the VOA that government forces’ plan was “to liberate the town [Qandala] and to help the people [sic] return to their homes”.
Governor Dhedo said that Puntland troops removing a land-mine came under attack near Bashashin village, 50km west of Qandala. Three government soldiers were wounded in the subsequent fighting.
Captain Mohamed Saeed, a Puntland military official, told Reuters that seven militant fighters were killed in the firefight.
Puntland prepared the ongoing military offensive in the port city of Bossaso, about 80km west of Qandala, where Puntland maintains heavy military presence. The terrain to Qandala is unpaved, mountainous and difficult for vehicles to move around.
In Oct. 2015, ISIS-affiliated faction led by Puntland-based cleric Abdulkadir Mumin splintered off from Al Shabaab insurgents based in Galgala mountains, about 70km southwest of Bossaso. Puntland troops have been fighting against Galgala insurgents since 2010.
In late October, ISIS-linked militants seized control over Qandala, sending a signal of strengthen to ISIS in the Middle East and compelling town residents to flee.
Puntland comprises of Somalia’s northeast, with shores along the Gulf of Aden to the north and the Indian Ocean to the east. The region has largely survived the political chaos and chronic insecurity of southern Somalia.
However, due to Puntland’s financial limitations and over-stretched resources, anti-government militants and piracy gangs have operated around its coast.