Somalia: Puntland forces arrest ISIS commander's driver in latest crackdown
GAROWE, Puntland - A man believed to be the official driver to ISIS Somalia militants' commander was on Sunday arrested by Special Forces from the Puntland security team, officials said, in a move that could further change fortunes in the ongoing fight against terrorists.
Hussein Ali Mohamud, the Bari region police commander, said the driver to IS-Somalia leader Abdulkadir Mumin was arrested along with dozens of fighters, during sophisticated operations carried out at Isku Shuban,Toga Jaceyl,Toga Canjeel, and Dooha-Gabin.
During the operation, several weapons and armored vehicles were also recovered, a significant move in the fight against terrorists within the rather peaceful Puntland state, which has recently been turned into a battlefield between security forces and militants.
The arrest of the driver, Mohamud added, would help narrow down the hideouts of the commander, who is linked to several high profile attacks engineered within Puntland, a semi-autonomous northern state in Somalia.
"Our security forces have arrested the driver of the ISIS Somalia leader and this isn't a small achievement," he said, adding that "this will give us crucial leads in the search for the commander who is responsible for atrocities in our region".
"We managed to also arrest several people fighting for the militants and they will be subjected to the rule of the law. We are glad that the forces also managed to recover weapons and vehicles used by the militants to commit crimes," he added.
Sheikh Abdulkadir Mumin, a former Al-Shabaab cleric, pledged allegiance to slain ISIS commander Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in 2015 and since then, he's been leading the onslaught against security forces and civilians specifically within Puntland region.
State Department designated Mumin as global terrorists and his whereabouts remain scanty despite efforts to have him arrested by the security forces. IS-Somalia has taken responsibility for deadly terror attacks within Puntland and sections of southern Somalia.
Early this year, members of the much degraded IS-Somalia group were sighted undergoing thorough training in areas believes to be Golis mountains in northern Puntland and had military fatigues while undertaking instructions from the commander.
IS-Somalia was drastically degraded following its personal and ideological differences with Al-Shabaab, a group that swore allegiance to Al-Qaida. Traditionally, both ISIS and Al-Qaida have had differences, which has at times degenerated into a fierce gunfight.
For the better part of 2018, fighting between Al-Shabaab and IS-Somalia was reported in southern Somalia and parts of Puntland, with the former claiming victory. The two groups have not fought lately according to security forces.
The arrest of the IS-Somalia affiliated fighters comes just a day after security forces also reported sighting entry of about 60 Al-Shabaab militants who arrived in Bari by boat from the troubled Mudug region.
Al-Shabaab's arrival in Bari also came amid fierce gunfight with Somali National Army [SNA] at Mudug following the assassination of regional Governor Muse Nur, who died along with four others in a bomb explosion at the border town of Galkayo last week.
Puntland security forces have also intensified operations against both Al-Shabaab and ISIS-Somalia in fragile regions including the recent crackdown at Bosaso, a seaside town where the militants have been executing illegal activities.
Said Abdullahi Deni, the president of Puntland state, promised "tough battle" against the militants in April when Al-Shabaab operatives assassinated Nugal Governor Abdisalam Hassan Hersi in Garowe. The Al-Qaida linked group took responsibility for the attack.
The identity of the driver is yet to be released by security forces, perhaps a strategy to further nab his associates through contact tracing. The crackdown is set to continue for several weeks to come, officials added.