The president of Somalia's Puntland government has called on the Somaliland separatist administration in northwestern Somalia to 'act against terrorists' who threaten regional stability, Radio Garowe reports.
Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole told the BBC Somali Service during a Thursday interview that Puntland authorities have sufficient information that insurgents who declared war on Puntland have escaped to territories to the west, under Somaliland control.
|Puntland President Abdirahman Farole|
"The terrorists who banded together in the Galgala foothills, on the eastern and western sides, have been defeated by Puntland troops," President Farole declared during the BBC interview, adding: "A Puntland military report lists their death toll at least 96 fighters killed."
Farole said Puntland troops seized the fleeing militants' materials, including: weapons, explosives, ammunition, vehicles, petroleum, food, and even mobile phones.
On Aug. 8, Puntland government troops launched a massive military offensive targeting armed militias who declared war on Puntland's elected government. The militias are led by Mohamed Said Atom, an arms dealer allied to Al Shabaab militants in southern Somalia and who is blacklisted by the U.S. and the U.N.
Somaliland involvement with Atom's terrorist activities
Puntland's leader said the government has sufficient evidence linking Somaliland-appointed officials in Sanaag region to Atom and his militia, who used hideouts in the Galgala hills until Puntland troops seized the entire area in late October, including militant training camps.
|Map of Somalia with Puntland and Somaliland|
President Farole provided specific names of four men who are on the Somaliland government payroll but are actively involved with funding and other support to Atom and the Galgala militants allied to Al Shabaab.
"These men receive salaries as officials appointed by Somaliland in Erigavo [capital of Sanaag region] but we know that these men brought money to Galgala to fund Atom's terrorist activities,"
Puntland's president said.
Farole said Puntland intelligence "shared the information" with Somaliland's government under former President Dahir Riyale, "but nothing was done" to stop these illegal activities, according to the president of Puntland.
"The remnants of the [Galgala] militants moved westward towards areas controlled by Somaliland especially around Erigavo district, and we have their names and locations," President Farole said.
He stated that some of the Somaliland-appointed officials have been "living in Dhahar town under clan name but have since fled to Erigavo after Puntland troops seized the last hideout in Galgala."
Farole indicated that Dhahar and its constituents is part of Puntland, but he underlined that the aforementioned Somaliland-appointed officials "collect salary from Somaliland as government militias based in [Sanaag] region."
He named Farah Osman Agoweyne as a "well-known terrorist now hiding in Erigavo." According to President Farole, Agoweyne was a member of a group of militants who were the target of a U.S. air strike in June 2007 in Bargal coastal town of Puntland.
'Pardon for those misled'
Puntland's president said the government has extended a pardon for Puntland natives who were "misled" to join the Galgala militants.
"There are talks underway. Some of those [men] who were misled have contacted their clan elders. We have told the Puntland community that there is a pardon for those who were misled and who are not involved in terrorism activities," President Farole said, adding: "We call on those [men] to surrender at government centers or to their recognized traditional elders or politicians."
Local sources report that widespread misinformation that aimed to portray Atom's armed group as a "clan militia" succeeded in attracting a handful recruits to join the anti-Puntland militants who had been hiding out in Galgala.
But since Puntland troops overwhelmed Atom's armed group, local fighters who were misled to join the war have "began making contact through their own clan networks," according to local insiders.
On Aug. 1, marking Puntland's 12th birthday, President Farole promised that the government will host an all inclusive conference to discuss Puntland's accomplishments and its future. Addressing the Puntland parliament's opening session last week, the president reiterated that promise.
President Farole urged Somaliland's new administration to act against suspected terrorists who are hiding out in areas under Somaliland control.
"We urge the Somaliland government to act against these terrorists who are hiding in areas like Erigavo,” Puntland's president said, adding: "These men are a security threat to both administrations [Puntland and Somaliland] and they [militants] are able to regroup and rearm."
Farole expressed optimism that Somaliland's new government under President Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo will be more cooperative on security matters than its predecessor, under former President Riyale.
"During Riyale's time, the intelligence services [of Puntland and Somaliland] used to communicate. However, since the new administration was elected [in Somaliland] we have direct contact and we think that we can cooperate on common interests," President Farole said.
He noted that he personally spoke with Somaliland's defense minister, Mr. Ahmed Haji Ali Adami, whom President Farole described as a "personal friend whom I have worked with in Berbera and Mogadishu" before the collapse of Somalia's last effective central government in 1991.
"He [Adami] promised to do something about the militants. The message has reached the president [of Somaliland]. We can work together. We know Somaliland arrested suspects in some areas, like Hiis town. We will request that Somaliland to extradite those suspects to be tried in Puntland courts," President Farole concluded.
Puntland is located in northeastern Somalia and considers itself part of a future Federal Republic of Somalia, while Somaliland to the west unilaterally declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991 but has not been recognized internationally.
FULL COVERAGE 2010:
Somalia: Farole declares victory over insurgents, names new police chief [Nov 1]
Somalia: Al Shabaab rebel Atom 'hiding in Somaliland': Report [Oct 23]
Somalia: Somaliland appeals for 'cooperation with Puntland' a second time [Sep 27]
Somalia: Puntland fighting Al Shabaab, arresting pirates: U.N. report [Sep 15]
Somalia: Somaliland interior minister 'worried' about Galgala militants [Sep 8]
Somalia: "Puntland is not fighting with clans in Galgala" [Aug 21]
Puntland forces clash with militants near Galgala, 9 dead [Aug 13]
Somalia: Al Shabaab and Galgala militants deny each other [report] [July 29]
Somalia: Puntland troops kill 13 militants in armed clash [July 26]
Somalia: 'Puntland under attack by foreign terrorists': Farole [July 21]
Somalia: Puntland Cabinet approves counterterrorism law [July 17]
Somalia: Puntland gets community support to target Galgala militants [July 15]
Somalia: Puntland forces 'kill two militants': sources [May 14]