Garowe Online (Garowe)

6 January 2011

Somalia: Haatuf Newspaper Reports Somaliland Link With Al Shabaab

A newspaper in Somalia's separatist region of Somaliland has published a report stating that the spokesman of an insurgent group has appealed for military assistance from Somaliland, Radio Garowe reports.

Hargeisa-based newspaper Haatuf, in its January 4th article titled, 'Atom Spokesman Says Group is Ready for Talks with Somaliland,' exposed the shady connections between Somaliland's separatist administration and Al Shabaab insurgent faction that wages war to topple the UN-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Mogadishu.

Farah Ismail Sardheye, who identified himself as the spokesman for Mohamed Said Atom, told Haatuf newspaper that Atom's group has "no connections" with Al Shabaab.

In the interview, Mr. Sardheye claimed that Galgala village in Bari region of Puntland is "part of eastern Sanaag region." However, Galgala is a village located in Bari region and was formerly the base of operations for Atom and his fighters.

The Puntland government waged a three-month military offensive to seize control of insurgent strongholds in Galgala area. The conflict ended in late October after Puntland forces seized control over the area and the insurgents fled to Somaliland, according to Puntland officials.

Mr. Sardheye claimed that Atom is alive and well. But Puntland sources say Mr. Sardheye's claim that he was conducting the interview from Madarshon village was false, since Puntland government forces control Madarshon village.

The Haatuf newspaper interview claimed that the Puntland government wants to "explore for minerals in Galgala," a line often used by Atom, who has been hiding since armed conflict broke out in July 2010 and Puntland forces overran the Al Shabaab-linked Atom group out of Galgala.

Puntland considers Al Shabaab as a terrorist group and has blamed the group for a series of assassinations and bombings in Bossaso, Puntland's commercial capital in Bari region.

Somaliland authorities have denied that Atom and Al Shabaab fighters who fled Galgala village have sought safe refuge in Somaliland-controlled areas of Sanaag region around Erigavo town.

In November, Somaliland Interior Minister Dr. Mohamed Abdi Gabose said the Somaliland administration considers Mr. Atom "a terrorist," in response to Puntland allegations that Somaliland is providing safe haven for the fleeing insurgents.

Its not clear why a major newspaper in Somaliland is now claiming that Atom's fighters are seeking support from Somaliland and repeating Atom's claims that Puntland wants to explore minerals in Galgala, a charge denied by Puntland officials.

Last week, Puntland Deputy Security Minister Abdi Jamal Osman issued a strongly-worded press release condemning Somaliland's alleged links with Al Shabaab.

Somaliland and Puntland have fought several times over control of Sool and Sanaag regions since 2002. Both regions have been relatively stable since the national political collapse of Somalia in 1991.

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