Al-Shabaab militants arrive in Bari region by boat from Mudug amid crackdown
BOSASO, Somalia - At least 60 Al-Shabaab militants fled from the Mudug region due to ongoing crackdown against them, witnesses said, choosing the Bari region as the ideal place for hiding, a move which could renew clashes in the semi-autonomous Puntland state.
The militants are said to have boarded a boat from Mudug and were sighted hours later at Hul Aanood village in Bari, a coastal region bordering the Indian ocean, which has been recently experiencing flash floods.
The boat had left Harardhere village in Mudug following fierce fight waged by Daesh and Somali National Army [SNA] troops against them, inflicting massive casualties on the Al-Shabaab side, Abdiqani Hassan, a veteran Reuters reporter said.
For the past one month, intensive fighting between the two sides had escalated in Mudug, between Dasaan and Dhaadaar areas in Cal-Miskaad, he noted, adding that the Al-Qaida linked militants had lost the fight.
Last week, the militants killed Mudug Governor Muse Nur through suicide bombing in the border town of Galkayo, igniting fierce gunfight between them and government troops in Mudug. This might have informed their unprecedented departure.
Bari region has been earmarked as a terror hotspot due to the alleged presence of IS-Somalia militants, who have traditionally fought against Al-Shabaab, due to their irreconcilable ideologies. The two groups remain in control of remote villages of Bari and Goli mountains.
The ongoing crackdown against the militants had also intensified within Puntland, a rather peaceful state under the reign of President Said Deni Abdullahi, with the killing of three militants near Bosaso last week being a culmination of weeks of search within the seaside town which targeted the militants.
At Leego town in Central Somalia, the government forces had also managed to capture a taxation point that had been exploited for financial gains by the militants, whose presence within the region is still noticeable.
Gen. Ismael Abdimalik, the commander of the Danab force said an official, who was positively identified as Hashim, was killed at Leego town within the notorious Al-Shabaab hotbed in southern Somalia.
The slain commander, he noted, had been coordinating mafia-style taxation, in which local business community parts with Zakat, which aids illegal operations of the militants across Somalia. He had been running a custom office within the town at the time of the killing, he said.
"We successfully raided an Al-Shabaab taxation office and killed one of the most wanted terrorists in Somalia," he said. "We are glad that our gallant troops were able to down him, and this is great news to our nation as we work hard to defeat these militants."
Ministry of Information confirmed the Leego operation, noting that it was largely aided by local militia, who guided the army in flushing out the militants. Three militants lost their lives during the fierce gunfight, it added.
The victory, the ministry said, "is an indication that the militants are losing grounds". The operations have significantly reduced channels of revenue for the Al-Shabaab, further weakening them, the statement said.
Al-Shabaab remains a threat to Somalia's quest for peace and stability, given its frequent attacks against security forces and innocent civilians, UN special envoy to Somalia James Swan told the UN Security Council last week.
For instance, a bomb explosion suspected to have been engineered by the militants left four people dead among them four children in the outskirts of Baidoa town within Southwest on Sunday, reports indicate.
There are close to 7,000 active Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia but the group has significantly lost ground due to frequent US airstrikes, ground combats by AMISOM and SNA forces, and the dwindling revenues which sustain their activities.
While it's not clear why the militants moved to Bari, security forces are said to be waging onslaught against them across the country as part of efforts to restore normalcy in Somalia, a country which has struggled with inter-clan conflicts and terrorism for almost three decades.