Al-Shabaab reported to be concentrating in the Galgala mountains
Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said this week that the increasing military pressure on Al-Shabaab was forcing its members to flee to hideouts in the mountainous region of north-eastern Somalia, lying between Puntland and Somaliland.
The Prime Minister said in an interview on Wednesday: “they are weakened. They are now in tatters. Their fighters are now moving to Galgala Mountains, which is an area with very difficult terrain.
” He added that Al-Shabaab high officials were now also relocating to Puntland. Galgala is where Sheikh Said Atom has been leading a mujahedeen militia some of whom recently declared their allegiance to Al-Shabaab.
President Abdirahman Farole of Puntland has also said that Al-Shabaab militants have moved into Puntland after being pushed out of central Somalia and indeed, since last August after al-Shabaab’s withdrawal from Mogadishu, they had, he said, been moving to Puntland to make bases there.
The aim, he said, was to strengthen their ties with al-Qaeda in Yemen only a short distance away across the Gulf of Aden. President Farole said the Al-Shabaab fighters were gathering in the Galgala mountains and the Golis range of hills that border Somaliland.
The President said he believed these militants and their senior officials were a threat to the security of the region, and said he was ready to deploy troops against them. Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Khalaf (Fuad Shongole) is among the Al-Shabaab leaders now reported to be in the Galgala mountains.
Websites supporting Al-Shabaab reported the arrival of “hundreds of Mujahideen” in the area earlier this week claiming that they were “to help in the battle against the ‘pro-infidel administration’ of Puntland”.
In fact, Al-Shabaab or Al Qaeda fighters are highly mobile and rarely concentrate large numbers in one location for any length of time. In the last couple of months they have also been working hard to recruit new fighters to replace those lost.
The Somali National Security Agency says it has captured over seven hundred Al-Shabaab and Al Qaeda insurgents in the last couple of months. Overall, Al-Shabaab numbers are estimated between 6000 and 8000 including a number of foreign fighters. Numbers have fallen recently due to desertions and defections as well as losses in battle.
Al-Shabaab still appears to be trying to hold onto Afgoye and areas in Lower and Middle Shebelle.
These are areas from which Al-Shabaab has been able to extract considerable amounts of tax, as well as extort money from the Internally Displaced People in the Afgoye corridor. They have been able to control farming and trading in these areas and in the past have had some local clan support though indications are that this is now falling.
The coast north of Mogadishu has a number of small ports have been used by Al-Shabaab, including Adale, Mareeg, Warsheikh and others; to the south are the larger ports of Merka, Barawe and, of course, Kismayo. Activity at Kismayo, however, appears to have dropped off recently perhaps because of air attacks and drone activity.
Al-Shabaab also still controls a number of airstrips in these regions including those at Jowhar (Middle Shabelle), El Dhere (Galgadud), Balidogle (Former Air Force Base – Lower Shabelle), K50 (Lower Shabelle) and Kismayo (Lower Juba).
The use of these ports and airstrips is one way that Al-Shabaab acquires weapons but there is also concern that it has been getting weapons and ammunition from other sources, including the sale of weapons by individuals particularly when wages for security forces have not been paid. There is now agreement that the TFG should implement a registration system in relation to weapons within the various Somali security services and in AMISOM, and this is expected to apply to the supply of weaponry to militias by the TFG or by other countries.
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