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Somali PM to Visit Semi-Autonomous Puntland


Somalia's Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke is scheduled to hold discussions with officials of the semi-autonomous Puntland region Monday. His visit follows the assassination of five Pakistani clerics in the region last week.

The alleged killers dragged the preachers out of a mosque and shot them dead. No group has claimed responsibility for the killings.

Sharmarke's visit to Puntland is his first as prime minister after he was nominated by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in neighboring Djibouti in February.

Somali information minister Mohamoud Farhaan itold VOA that Prime Minister Sharmarke will discuss with Puntland officials military cooperation as well as finding a lasting solution to the region's piracy menace.

"The prime minister is going to the Puntland region for two or three days on official visit. That will be his first visit. For the last six months he was the prime minster of the Transitional Federal Government. We expect that the delegation of ministers and MP's (Members of parliament) and other civil servants will be (joining) him in this journey," Farhaan said.

Masked men reportedly dragged five Pakistanis out of a mosque after dawn prayers in Puntland last Wednesday and opened fire on them. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the attack, authorities in Puntland have launched a manhunt for the killers.

Farhaan said a high ranking official of Puntland was also killed recently.

"Before the assignation of the clerics which is an unfortunate event, there has also been the killing of the information minister of Puntland in the same city Galkayo…there is also growing concern of security of the region which has relatively been peaceful," Farhaan said.

He denied the reason for the prime minister's visit was because of the assassination of the Pakistani clerics.

"This trip has been planned about three months ago. And it didn't happen because of what is happening in Mogadishu… this is a window for the prime minister and his delegation to take advantage of," he said.

Farhaan praised the government of the semi-autonomous Puntland for the relative peace it has enjoyed.

"The Puntland authority has done a lot showing that Puntland remains a peaceful and prosperous and forward looking. I'm very proud of what they have done," Farhaan said.

He said among the discussions would be security cooperation between Mogadishu and Puntland.

"One of the reasons is to discuss with the Puntland authorities of how we can cooperate in terms of security. What happens today in Mogadishu is not going to be far from Puntland. Therefore cooperation within Somalia and Puntland is paramount," he said.

Hard line Somalia insurgents have refused to recognize the Transitional Federal Government led by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

They have vowed to overthrow the less than a year administration and implement the strictest form of Sharia law.

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