Iranians and Pakistanis arrested in central Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Police in Somalia's central Federal State of Galmudug arrested foreigners said to be Iranians and Pakistanis and launched an investigation into their presence in the country without complying with various immigration regulations.
Authorities have confirmed that 20 Pakistanis and Iranians were arrested in the coastal Hobyo town in Somalia, and have since claimed that they were under Al-Shabaab captivity. There was no immediate proof that the individuals have been under Al-Shabaab.
In a preliminary statement, the men said they were fishermen previously captured by Al-Shabaab in Somali waters but authorities in the country could not immediately ascertain the claims. The Al-Shabaab militants are notorious for kidnapping foreign nationals in exchange for ransom.
Their arrest comes at the time the country is fighting Al-Shabaab militants across the nation, in a crackdown that has left over 500 militants dead according to Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre. The government has been pursuing foreign nationals who are reportedly supporting the fighters.
In the past, authorities have confirmed with evidence that the group has recruited foreign nationals who are fighting in the country. These nationals are said to have undergone immense training which enables them to fight within and outside Somalia.
One of the major mysteries the government will try to unravel is whether the claims of the militants can be proved. The group has been abducting people in Somali waters and across the borders, a situation they use to ask for ransoms and other financial favors for their own facilitation.
But there are instances where foreign nationals have been fighting alongside Al-Shabaab, with the most recent example being in the Manda Bay attack in Kenya. In a report, the group confirmed that of all the five militants who were killed after they raided a US naval base, four of them were not Somalis.
To extend their dominance, the militants have been eyeing neighboring countries especially Kenya for recruitment, making the war against these criminals complicated. However, police insist they will interrogate them, militants, before making a comprehensive report that would lead to the acquittal or conviction of the 20 foreigners.