News / Africa

Clan Rivalry Complicates Terrorism Fight in Puntland

Abdurahman Mohamed Farole, president of Somalia's northern breakaway state of Puntland speaks in Apr 2009 at a press conference in Nairobi (file photo)
Abdurahman Mohamed Farole, president of Somalia's northern breakaway state of Puntland speaks in Apr 2009 at a press conference in Nairobi (file photo)

The United States says it is planning to boost ties with Somalia's two autonomous regions - Somaliland and Puntland - in an effort to restore stability in the south and to curb the spread of Islamic extremism.  Some analysts say the move, however, may end up increasing violence and instability in Puntland.

In late July, Puntland government forces began fighting with militants loyal to an Islamist factional leader based in the remote and mountainous Sanaag and western Bari regions of northern Somalia.  

Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole said the assault was a counter-terrorism operation, targeting the terrorist leader of the Puntland cell of al-Qaida, Mohamed Siad Atom.  The Puntland government has linked Atom to numerous kidnappings, bombings, and assassinations in the region since 2008.

In March, the U.N. Monitoring group for Somalia said it believed Atom was one of the principle suppliers of arms and ammunitions for al-Shabab, an al-Qaida affiliate that controls much of southern Somalia.  A month later, the United States Treasury Department froze Atom's assets and those of a nearly dozen other suspected Islamist militants in Somalia.  

But the leaders of the Warsangeli, a sub-clan of the larger Somali Darod tribe, say the conflict in the north is not about entirely about terrorism.  They say it also is about long-held political and economic grievances the Warsangeli have had against the Puntland government since the region declared autonomy in 1998.  

Somalia observer Stig Jarle Hansen of the Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research in Oslo said if the United States is planning to assist the Puntland government in its fight against Atom, it will need to approach the situation with extreme caution.

"The danger is that you could suppress the Warsangeli in a drastic way," said Hansen.  "Or you could act in a way that mobilizes the Warsangeli to the Shabab side.  So, you can make your predictions come true through your own actions."

The leadership of the Puntland government is dominated by members of the Majeerten sub-clan of the Darod, and there has long been a simmering power struggle between the two sub-clans for control of Puntland's lucrative commercial hub, Bosasso.

The rivalry between the sub-clans boiled over into a bloody confrontation in 2006, when Mohamed Said Atom's militia attacked Puntland security forces to protest exploration rights the government gave to an Australian mining company in the mineral-rich Sanaag and western Bari regions.  The Warsangeli said the deal was struck without its permission.  
In recent years, the Warsangeli, and other Darod sub-clans in Puntland have complained bitterly about the Puntland Intelligence Service, a counter-terrorism organization created in 2001, and which receives considerable support from the United States.  The clan makeup of the powerful service is predominantly Majeerten, and the organization has been accused of working to empower one clan at the expense of others.

Somalia observers warn a narrowly-focused U.S. engagement with the Puntland government, specifically in the counter-terrorism field, could unintentionally spark an inter-clan war.  They say the conflict then could be exploited by al-Shabab to expand its influence into the far reaches of northern Somalia.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs