Shabaab, Puntland forces clash in northern Somalia


Image of a Shabaab fighter from the terror group’s website.

Shabaab and security forces from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in northern Somalia have clashed in a region that has been described as the Tora Bora of East Africa.

Ten Shabaab fighters were killed and a commander was captured after the Somali terror group ambushed a Puntland security force in Karin, about 25 miles from the port city of Bosaso. Five members of Puntland ‘s security forces were also reported to have been killed.

“We have repulsed them, captured and killed many of them,” Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole told Garowe. “Jamaa Ismail Duale who is a well known militant, is among those we captured. I am appealing to Puntland people that they should prepare to defend the state from the invaders.”

The Shabaab fighters were under the command of Mohammed Said Atom, a radical cleric in northern Somalia.

“Atom has links with Al Qaeda and represents the Shabaab in the region,” Colonel Mohamed Jama, a senior security official from the semi-autonomous state of Puntland, told AFP on July 22.

Atom is said to have built up bases in the Sanaag mountains in a region between Puntland and Somaliland, another semi-autonomous region in the north. He is said to have “mobilized hundreds of Islamist militants in the villages around Sanaag Bari,” according to Jama.

Local Puntland officials said Atom’s bases in the Sanaag mountains are “like Tora Bora in Afghanistan,” with cave complexes and training camps [see AFP report, Fears of a new Tora Bora in northern Somalia]. In 2002, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden battled against US Special Forces and Afghan militias in the Tora Bora mountain complex in Nangarhar in eastern Afghanistan.

Over the past week, Puntland security forces have launched an operation in Bosaso, and have been rounding up Somalis from the south and expelling them from Puntland. More than 500 southern Somalis have been deported from the region.

Shabaab has successfully carried out terror attacks in the relatively peaceful Somali north in the past. On Oct. 29, 2008, five Shabaab suicide bombers struck four compounds in Somaliland and Puntland, killing 28 and wounding scores. Three suicide car bombers struck the presidential palace, the UN Development Program compound, and the Ethiopian Consulate in the city of Hargeisa in Somaliland. And in Bosaso, two bombers targeted an intelligence facility.

On July 11 of this year, Shabaab carried out its first suicide attack outside Somalia, when two bombers detonated at restaurants in Kampala, Uganda, as soccer fans watched the World Cup. In that attack, 74 civilians were killed and more than 60 were wounded.

The Shabaab cell that carried out the Kampala attack is called the Saleh Ali Nabhan Brigade, which is named after the slain al Qaeda leader who also served as a senior Shabaab leader. Nabhan was one of the most sought out al Qaeda operatives in Africa. He was wanted for involvement in the 1998 suicide attacks against US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Shabaab is al Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia.


Somalia: Puntland troops kill 13 militants in armed clash, Garowe

Somalia: Puntland Forces and Al-Shabab Linked Militia, Clash near Bosaso, Sunatimes

Somalia: Security crackdown will continue in Bossaso, says Puntland official, Garowe

Fears of a new Tora Bora in northern Somalia, AFP

Five suicide bombers strike in northern Somalia, The Long War Journal

Uganda attack carried out by Shabaab cell named after slain al Qaeda leader, The Long War Journal

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Neo says:

    The town of Cearigaab (10.615 N, 47.366 E) is situated on a high plateaus just south of the Sanaag mountain region. The Sanaag mountains have a steep north facing cliff face that runs east west for 140 miles running about a dozen miles from the Somaliland coast. Largely barren plateaus with deeply carved ravines approach the south side of the mountains. The northern face is thickly forested in places with ancient frankincense stands. My educated guess is this area would have been relatively wealthy in the centuries before the collapse of the frankincense trade. There are probably two millennia worth of abandon dwellings carved into the north facing cliffs inside the extensive frankincense stands.
    This does not appear to be an easy gateway from south to north Somalia as some articles seem to suggest, one could bring fighters in through the relatively flat paths through the highland plateau to the south. It’s a fairly long trek though. This place is immediately accessible to the coast facing Yemen though, and would serve as a excellent drop-off location for men and supplies coming in from either the Yemen, the Red Sea, or the Gulf of Arabia. The city of Bosaso in Punt is located on the coast just off the east end of the mountain range.
    The area in question seems to be disputed between Somaliland and Punt with local tribes wanting autonomy from both. I don’t know precisely how that dispute is being exploited by the Jihadi’s, but it does seem to be their fashion to promise support for one party or another than take political control with local strong men.

  • Zeissa says:

    And the fight continues!

  • Zeissa says:

    I wonder if world governments will care before Somaliland falls? I don’t care as much for Puntland but it’d be nice if it survives.

  • Zeissa says:

    Otoh the local governments are fairly strong and may receive some limited aid so maybe they’ll hang on or even prosper till there’s international resources and the will to help them…


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