ISIS-Somalia militants sighted training in Puntland
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Fighters allied to Islamic State, Somalia faction were on Sunday sighted undergoing intensive training in Bari hills, northeast of Puntland, multiple reports confirmed.
The almost dysfunctional group had minimized attacks in Somalia due to frequent rivalry with Al-Shabaab and raids by security forces.
Christopher Anzalone, an Islamic scholar, said the fighters, who were pictured carrying heavy artilleries, trained at Abu Bakri al-Qurayshi and Abu Hassan al-Muhajir military camps.
This is the first time ISIS-Somalia was releasing photos of its activities in war-torn Somalia, after facing imminent defeat by security forces, a source said.
Drastically weakened, the group has taken refuge within Puntland, specifically at Golis and Bari mountains, where they have braved numerous airstrikes by the US military.
After the April 2010 killings of Islamic State of Iraq amir Abu 'Umar al-Baghdadi and "war minister" Abu Ayyub al-Masri, Al-Shabab "honored" the two ISI chiefs by carrying out an SVBIED attack in Mogadishu, Anzalone notes.
Before the AQ-IS split in 2010, Al-Shabaab's religious leader Mu'allim Burkan delivered Khuta in honor of the two fighters.
IS-Somalia'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 ISS claims in 2018, which has left several people among them security forces dead.
ISS claimed 13 operations in Puntland in 2018 while in the previous two years combined, it only made 12 claims for the region, observes The Military Times.
For over five years now, Al-Shabaab has been at loggerheads with IS-Somalia, with the two factions often engaging in fierce field battles across Somalia.
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 Anzalone 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.
ISIS-Somalia militants appear weakened despite their latest training photo, which could only invite retribution and rivalry from Al-Shabaab militants.