Galkayo — Puntland forces captured two top Al Shabaab agents and a cache of explosives in Galkayo on Saturday, Garowe Online reports.
A Puntland press release stated that the arrests were made by Puntland security forces and were successful in nabbing Mohamed Nuh Aden (Abu Hafsa), Al Shabaab's head of the assassination division and former security chief for Al Shabaab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane.
The arrest of Abu Hafsa led to the second arrest of an Al Shabaab agent who was a logistics officer known as Abdirasak Hussien Tahlil.
Police officials said the two were transporting an arsenal of explosives through Galkayo when Puntland forces conducted the operations.
According to a Puntland Intelligence official, Abu Hafsa was being investigated and was under surveillance until intelligence agencies confirmed his role in the terrorist organization.
Abu Hafsa is a native of Somaliland - a self-declared sovereign region in northwestern Somalia - and had been a close confidant of Godane while commanding the post of, head of assassination division in Banadir region and the Shabelle regions.
He had been known to visit the Golis Mountain Range, where Al Shabaab agents had briefly used as base of operations in 2010 before being suppressed by Puntland defense forces.
According to the Puntland press release, the forces discovered suicide bomb jackets, hand grenades, TNT, mobile phones, fuses, wires and detonators.
Puntland Deputy Security Minister Abdirasak Hareed stated that the Al Shabaab agents were planning on several attacks targeting government institutions and populated urban centers, in a press statement in Garowe on Sunday.
Puntland intelligence officers confirmed to GO that Abu Hafsa's objective was to identify smuggling routes that could be used to provide Al Shabaab agents in the Golis Mountains weapons and supplies.
In related news, Puntland forces captured 9 men alleged of being Al Shabaab agents from the ages of 18-30 at the foothills of the Golis Mountains that stretch through Bari and Sanaag regions.
Deputy Minister Hareed stated in a press statement on Sunday that 7 of the 9 men were non-Puntland inhabitants who alleged that they were headed to Bossaso.
The investigation is still pending, however Minister Hareed said that there was a known Al Shabaab guide traveling with the men who are in custody and have been charged with terrorism charges.
According to security officials, after the international intervention Al Shabaab's control in southern Somalia was extremely weakened which had forced many known Al Shabaab agents to infiltrate neighboring Yemen and the stable Puntland state of Somalia.
Earlier this year Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole stated that there had been a resurgence of Al Shabaab in the Golis Mountains.
Earlier this year Puntland security officials urged that Somaliland act on Al Shabaab terror cells residing in Somaliland assisting Al Shabaab agents to infiltrate the Golis Mountain.
A 10 year seasoned officer of the Puntland Intelligence Agency (PIA), told GO that many Al Shabaab agents infiltrate Puntland through Somaliland even receiving logistics and support from Al Shabaab cells in Somaliland.
Puntland intelligence officials confirmed that they had received information that after Abu Hafsa's visit to the Golis Mountains in Puntland, he took a trip to Hargeisa capital of Somaliland where his family resides.