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.
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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.
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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.
In the meantime, Jeffrey Gettleman writes that “The Pirates Are Winning!” in the New York Review of Books”:
There’s very little hope, in the near future, of the transitional government in Mogadishu becoming strong enough to wipe out the pirates’ bases. The government is simply trying to stay alive. The hard-line Islamist insurgents who control much of Somalia have flirted with dismantling the piracy business, but the money is too good. One group, Hizbul Islam, recently moved into Xarardheere and now gets $40,000 from each ransom. The more powerful insurgent group al-Shabab made a deal with the pirates in which they will not interfere with the pirates’ business in exchange for 5 percent of the ransoms. This seems to be the beginning of the West’s worst Somali nightmare. The country’s two top exports—piracy and Islamist radicalism—are at last joining hands.
Yesterday, however, the BBC reported that a Puntland court in Bossaso had sentenced a pirate leader to death for murder of a ship captain following a raid by Puntland soldiers.