Somali Islamist insurgents make profits when the government and allies fail

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MOGADISHU, Dec. 15 (Reuters) – Somali Islamists have captured a city in the semi-autonomous central state of Galmudug, local residents said.

The gains – in cities that have been free from the al-Shabaab insurgency for more than a decade – are evidence that the group with ties to al-Qaeda is benefiting from deepening political divisions in Somalia ahead of the long-postponed presidential election next Year benefits.

The group captured the town of Eldheere, 30 km (18 miles) south of Galmudug’s capital, Dhusamareb, on Tuesday. Al-Shabaab fighters bombed the police station before taking over the city, local residents and a Galmudug state military official told Reuters.

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“Last night the troops (of the state of Galmudug) left and al Shabaab took the city,” said elder Nur Hussein on Wednesday by telephone from the city of Eldheere.

The Islamists also kidnapped a trader and threatened an important regional road.

Al-Shabaab militants briefly took over the city of Mataban on Monday before it was reoccupied by troops from Galmudug state, resident Ahmed Abdullahi told Reuters by phone.

“I saw masked al-Shabaab fighters hoisting flags and addressing the people in the center of the city,” he said.

Al Shabaab has been fighting in Somalia for years to overthrow the central government and rule on the basis of its own strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Major Farah Ahmed, a police officer in Galmudug, confirmed that al-Shabaab had captured Eldheere but said the state had sent troops to evict them.

The raids follow fighting between the Somali government and its former ally Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ), a Galmudug militia that was instrumental in the fight against al Shabaab. ASWJ says the government has taken in too many hard-line clerics.

In October the two sides fought a deadly battle in which more than 120 people were killed. Analysts fear the clash will derail the fight against al Shabaab. Continue reading

“This is a major threat to Galmudug’s cities like Dhusamareb,” said Abdisalam Yusuf Guled, a former deputy for Somali intelligence agency NISA.

Galmudug state does not have enough troops to fight al Shabaab, he added.

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Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Letter from Elias Biryabarema; Adaptation by Katharine Houreld and Giles Elgood

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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