The government of Somalia's stable northern Puntland State has formally approved a new counterterrorism law that now awaits a parliament vote, Radio Garowe reports.
Gen. Yusuf Ahmed Kheir, Puntland's security minister, told reporters on Friday that the Puntland Council of Ministers (Cabinet) unanimously approved the new anti-terrorism law that would specifically deal with terror suspects and their accomplices.
"We recognize as a terrorist anyone who plans to terrorize the people with merciless killings, bombings of civilian centers, and any plan designed to destroy state security," Puntland Security Minister Kheir told reporters in Garowe, Puntland's state capital.
Minister Kheir said the Puntland government decided to create the new counterterrorism law after a series of political assassinations and bombings targeting officials in Puntland, considered among Somalia's most stable regions.
Observers say the new counterterrorism law is part of Puntland's strategy to fight against insurgent groups like Al Shabaab, who seek to take power in Somalia through violent force and oppose self-governments like Puntland.
Special court for terror suspects
"A special court will be established within Puntland's criminal courts and this special court will handle terrorism suspects and their accomplices," the Puntland security minister added.
Puntland officials say the new special court would "speed up" cases that are already clogging the justice system pipeline in Puntland, including dozens of piracy cases.
Other reports say Puntland's government has also prepared special laws to deal with pirates and human smugglers.
Puntland's 66-seat Parliament, authorized by the 2009 constitution to elect a Puntland president every five years, is expected to debate the new anti-terror law and vote soon.
Possible government crackdown
The new anti-terror law comes at a time a group of militants hiding out in the Galgala hills area, west of Puntland's port city of Bossaso, have declared loyalty to insurgent groups in southern Somalia including Mogadishu.
The Galgala militants' website, Galgalanews.com, reports the militants' fears of a Puntland military crackdown on the Galgala area to flush out the insurgents linked to Al Shabaab.
Puntland officials have refused to comment on a military crackdown on the Galgala hideout, by local clan elders recently expressed public support to the Puntland government to hunt down "invaders" hiding out in Galgala hills.
Government officials have blamed assassinations and bombings in Puntland on the Galgala militants, who are led by an individual on the U.S. wanted list.
Puntland, located in northeastern Somalia, has its own state government and security forces and supports the establishment of a functioning federal government for Somalia.
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