The government of Somalia's stable northern Puntland region has blasted a Voice of America report which it says is as expecting the U.S. government to "appease Al Shabaab" in Somalia, Radio Garowe reports.
A press release issued from the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in the Puntland capital Garowe said the VOA report entitled, "Clan Rivalry Complicates Terrorism Fight in Puntland," attempts to create the impression that "long simmering rivalry" exists between the Majerteen and Warsangeli sub-clans of the Darod clan-family in Puntland.
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VOA Article Portrays Wrong Picture, Appeases Terrorist in Puntland
"The two clans enjoy fraternal relations of the first kind and the government of Puntland's counterterrorism efforts against the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Shabab in the mountainous regions of Sanag and western Bari regions is just that a counterterrorism campaign," read the press statement from Puntland's government.
The statement said the VOA report's attempt to portray Puntland as a clan government is "malicious and inflammatory," while describing the report's motives as a "...cheap ploy to frustrate the implementation of the recently announced United States government's 'two-track' Somalia engagement policy."
Clan Rivalry Complicates Terrorism Fight in Puntland
Puntland's government promised to continue its "mutually beneficial cooperation" with the U.S., but strongly rejected the VOA report's claim that increased U.S. engagement with Puntland will "mobilize a clan to join Al Shabaab."
he press statement said this claim is a "false prediction" that will not stop "Puntland in its effort to deny Al-Qaeda and her affiliates to establish a safe heaven in its territory."
"The article seems to be advocating for the United States to appease the Al Shabaab," concluded the press statement from the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation in Garowe.
U.S. policy and Puntland
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African affairs, Ambassador Johnnie Carson, announced last week a two-track policy that will pursue closer U.S. relations with Somalia's two stable regions, Puntland and Somaliland.
The new U.S. policy recognizes the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu as Somalia's national authority, but promises "aggressive" engagement with Puntland and Somaliland in key areas of security, governance and social services.
Puntland's government has repeatedly called for U.S. robust engagement with stable regions in northern Somalia, as much of Mogadishu and south-central Somalia remains under the control of Al Shabaab insurgents.
The new U.S. policy for Somalia was welcomed in Puntland as a "strategic reward of the commitment to peace and institutional governance."
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But some analysts have criticized U.S.-Puntland relations with regard to the Puntland government's intelligence and counterterrorism branch, the Puntland Intelligence Agency (PIA), which has enjoyed the backing of Western intelligence communities since 2001.
Puntland war against Al Shabaab
Mohamed Said Atom, a native of Puntland who is allegedly Al Shabaab's chief in the region, has always justified attacks against Puntland's government by claiming that the PIA is a "foreign organization."
Experts say it is part of Al Shabaab's strategy to use "clan grievances" to advance their own political agenda. In Puntland, however, Al Shabaab failed to benefit from Atom's use of the "clan grievance" method due to the egalitarian nature of Puntland society.
Since July, Puntland government forces including PIA units have engaged in a military offensive to flush out Mr. Atom and his Al Shabaab allies hiding out in the Golis mountain range that straddles Puntland and Somaliland.
Puntland forces have seized all facilities and training camps used by the insurgents, but Atom and others have fled deeper into the mountains as military operations continue.
In recent weeks, Somaliland's government has appealed for security cooperation with Puntland. Somaliland Interior Minister Mohamed Abdi Gabose even told reporters that he is "worried" about the movements of Al Shabaab militants led by Atom.
Somaliland appeals for 'cooperation with Puntland' a second time
Puntland, located in northeastern Somalia, has been relatively stable since declaring autonomy in 1998. The region considers itself part of a future federal Somalia and maintains its own government, security forces and holds elections as mandated by the constitution.