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Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, has published a series of photos from last week’s raid on a military camp in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia.

The photos detail both the attack and the destruction left on the Puntland military camp, which does not appear to have been well fortified. The jihadist group claimed last week that it killed more than 60 soldiers, however, Puntland authorities have put that number closer to 30.

The latter appears to be closer to the actual number, as very few bodies are shown in the photo set. Shabaab has often confirmed high casualty numbers in similar raids by showcasing dead bodies strewn across overran bases.

Shabaab did confirm that its forces overran the camp and took several weapons and vehicles as spoils. The camp, which was located in Af Urur in the Galgala mountains, appears to have been destroyed by the jihadists.

The Galgala mountains have long been a stronghold of Shabaab, which has carried out a number of high profile attacks there. Most recently, on April 23, Shabaab fighters killed eight troops and wounded several more in a complex IED attack.
Shabaab is thought to have about 300 fighters operating in the Galgala mountains.

The Islamic State also has a presence in Galgala. An estimated 20 fighters loyal to Abdiqadir Mumin broke off from Shabaab and swore allegiance to Islamic State emir Abu Bakr al Baghdadi in October 2015. Several months later, Mumin was featured in a video that promoted the “first camp of the Caliphate in Somalia.” A defected member of Mumin’s forces reportedly placed the number of Islamic State-loyal fighters in Galgala at 70.

Shabaab has been resurgent in Somalia since losing ground to a combined African Union and Somali offensive in 2011. The jihadist group has slowly but methodically retaken several towns and villages that it lost in both central and southern Somalia. Last week’s deadly assault in Puntland also shows that the jihadist group remains a threat in northern Somalia as well.

Briefing Room

Somalia’s Puntland region asks UAE to stay as Gulf split deepens



BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region urged the United Arab Emirates not to close its security operations in the country after a dispute with the central government, saying the Gulf power was a key ally in the fight against Islamist militants.

The dispute goes to the heart of an increasingly troubled relationship between Gulf states – divided by their own disputes – and fractured Somalia, whose coastline sits close to key shipping routes and across the water from Yemen.

Analysts have said the complex standoff risks exacerbating an already explosive security situation on both sides of the Gulf of Aden, where militant groups launch regular attacks.

The central Somali government said on Wednesday it was taking over a military training program run by the UAE.

Days later the UAE announced it was pulling out, accusing Mogadishu of seizing millions of dollars from a plane, money it said was meant to pay soldiers.

“We ask our UAE friends, not only to stay, but to redouble their efforts in helping Somalia stand on its feet,” said the office of the president of Puntland, a territory that sits on the tip of the Horn of Africa looking out over the Gulf of Aden.

Ending UAE support, “will only help our enemy, particularly Al Shabaab and ISIS (Islamic State),” it added late on Monday.


The UAE is one of a number of Gulf powers that have opened bases along the coast of the Horn of Africa and promised investment and donations as they compete for influence in the insecure but strategically important region.

That competition has been exacerbated by a diplomatic rift between Qatar and a bloc including the UAE. In turn, those splits have worsened divisions in Somalia.

Puntland, which has said it wants independence, has sought to woo the UAE which runs an anti-piracy training center there and is developing the main port. The central government in Mogadishu last year criticized Puntland for taking sides in the Gulf dispute. Qatar’s ally Turkey is one of Somalia’s biggest investors.

One Somali government official said last week Mogadishu had decided to take over the UAE operation because the Gulf state’s contract to run it had expired. Another official said the government was investigating the money taken from the plane.

The competition among Gulf states in Somalia has fueled accusations of foreign interference and resentment in many corners of Somali society.

The loss of the UAE program could have a destabilizing effect, said one security analyst, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“The value of the UAE trained forces was two-fold – they were relatively well trained but, most importantly, they were paid on time,” unlike other parts of the security forces, the analyst told Reuters.

Somalia has been mired in conflict since 1991.

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Briefing Room

Puntland Police on Alert as Somalia Terror Threat Moves North



For years, Somalia’s northern Puntland state has been more stable than the country’s volatile south, but that picture may be changing. Police in Puntland remain on alert amid a string of attacks over the past year by Al-Shabab and another group of fighters who have joined the Islamic State terror group. For VOA, Jason Patinkin reports from Puntland city of Bossaso.

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As climate change parches Somalia, frequent drought comes with conflict over fertile land



PBS — Desert sand is slowly taking over Somalia. Just six years after the last major drought emergency, the rains have failed again — a devastating trend in a country where around 80 percent of people make their living on the land. Special correspondent Jane Ferguson and videographer Alessandro Pavone report on how climate change is threatening a way of life that has sustained Somalia for millennia.

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