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[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Al Shabaab says extends reach into Somalia's Puntland

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2012 23:46:48 +0100

Al Shabaab says extends reach into Somalia's Puntland

Sat Feb 25, 2012 4:02pm GMT

* Al Shabaab says joins forces with Puntland Islamists

* Says wants to nullify oil exploration licenses

* Puntland is one of Somalia's more stable regions

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU, Feb 25 (Reuters) - An Islamist militia group in Somalia's
semi-autonomous Puntland region has merged with the al Shabaab rebel group,
said the insurgents on Saturday, a union which threatens to destabilise the
relatively secure area targeted by oil explorers.

Al Shabaab said it wanted to scrap the licenses of Western oil and gas firms
drilling in Puntland. The al Qaeda-backed insurgents used social media site
twitter to declare all oil and gas exploration and drilling licenses

While they do not hold the administrative control in the region needed to
enforce their demand, the militants could try to target installations
operated by Western oil companies.

The Puntland administration was not immediately available for comment.

The union comes as the insurgents are being weakened, relinquishing ground
to African Union troops around the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and losing
territory to Kenyan and Ethiopian forces in parts of southern and central

Puntland security officials have previously said the Islamist militia camped
out in the Golis hills outside the port city of Bosasso is led by Yasin
Khalid Osman.

"I ... the leader of Golis ranges Islamists have signed an agreement with al
Shabaab leader Sheikh Muktar Abu Zubeir. We are now al Shabaab," a voice
identifying itself as Osman said in an audio recording on al Shabaab's

"I urge residents to take part in the jihad against the Christian invaders
and the Somali infidels that work with them," he said, referring to the
foreign troops inside Somalia.

Osman rarely makes statements and it was not immediately possible to verify
his voice.


Last month, Canadian oil and gas exploration company Africa Oil Corp. began
drilling an exploratory well in Puntland, the first to be sunk in the
country since civil war erupted two decades ago.

Africa Oil and its partners in the two Puntland licences, Australia's Red
Emperor and Range Resources, are targetting prospective resources of over
300 million barrels of recoverable oil.

In a country that has lacked effective central government for two decades,
Puntland's relative stability is showcased by foreign powers advocating a
loose federal political system in Somalia.

Some donors have focused development funding on the semi-autonomous region
as a reward.

However, Puntland's authorities have blamed the militants for the mounting
insecurity in the region. While al Shabaab control parts of southern and
central Somalia, they still have a much lighter presence further north.

"The jihad will be redoubled in those areas," Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, al
Shabaab's spokesman, told Reuters.

C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved


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