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Five foreigners among dozens of latest fighters to join ISIS affiliate in Somalia

By Abuga Makori in Nairobi , Garowe Online

NAIROBI, Kenya - More than thirty [30] fighters have joined almost dysfunctional ISIS branch in Somalia, intelligence reports reveal, with five of them believed to be foreigners.

For over five years, ISIS-Somalia has been battling with rival Al-Qaida linked Al-Shabaab militants, almost causing disharmony between the two, officials said.

But in what seems to be spirited rebuilding efforts, the ISIS-linked faction has embarked on sophisticated recruitment, eyeing foreigners as part of their strengthening strategy, intelligence reports indicate.

Already, three fighters from Yemen and two more from Iraq, have been sighted in the militants Any Bake al-Qurayshi training camp, located in mountains of Puntland state.

The five, security intelligence noted, were among over thirty fighters who joined the Somalia-based ISIS group, a great boost to their unending mission to spread their ideologies in the war-torn nation.

Multiple intelligence sources indicate that the group is bound to deploy its fighters to southern Somalia, a region largely controlled by rivals Al-Shabaab, Abdiqani Hassan, Reuters reporter in Puntland said.

A fortnight ago, IS-Somalia fighter was sighted in intensive training in Bari hills, northeastern Puntland, further scaring security forces in the rather peaceful semi-autonomous state.

Greatly neutralized, the group has taken refuge within Puntland, specifically at Golis and Bari mountains, where they have braved numerous airstrikes by the US military.

The group's bid to expand territory suffered a series of setbacks following their fallout with Al-Qaida linked Al-Shabaab, which enjoys a sizeable following in the Horn of Africa.

For instance, Ali Mohamud Rage, the Al-Shabaab spokesman, dismissed IS militants as a "disease" and "Cancer" after Al-Shabaab beating them in Gedo in 2018.

But the northern Puntland region also witnessed an increase in ISIS claims in 2018, which has left several people among them security forces dead.

The group claimed 13 attacks in Puntland, located in northeastern Somalia in 2018 while in the previous two years combined, it only made 12 claims for the region, observes The Military Times.

So vicious has been it's fallout with Al-Shabaab, that attempts to control Jubaland fatally flopped in 2018, leading to dozens of deaths.

Starting in 2015, propaganda released by the Islamic State began to focus on encouraging members of al-Shabaab to defect and join its cause, causing the rift between the two sides.

“Though the Islamic State’s ideology, or aspects of it, are attractive to some members of al-Shabaab," observes Christopher Anzalone, an Islamic scholar, in one of his published research.

"The emergence of such a competitor [in the Islamic State] … provides those disgruntled members [of al-Shabaab] a way to challenge the status quo."

Al-Shabaab has also lost a substantial number of fighters, who have since surrendered to authorities for counseling and repatriation to the community.

The ISIS militants appear weakened despite their latest training photo, which could only invite retribution and rivalry from Al-Shabaab.

It's not clear how the foreign fighters sneaked into the country, but the planned raid in Southern Somalia could also fail, given the intensive operations by SNA and US troops in the region.

For instance, the US has conducted 17 airstrikes in the region, killing an Al-Shabaab leader linked to the Manda Airfield attack in Kenya during Saturday's raid, AFRICOM reported.


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