MOGADISHU, Somalia - The fight against Somalia’s Al Qaeda-linked insurgency may be moving north to an area previously considered safer than the war-ravaged south, analysts and officials said Monday.
The move could mean that the Al Shabab militia is seeking to regroup in the semiautonomous region of Puntland, where international companies are exploring for oil. The militia has faced heavy pressure from three foreign armies in southern Somalia.
Last week, a Puntland militia led by former soldier Mohamed Said - nicknamed “Atom’’ for his bomb-making abilities - announced a merger with Al Shabab. An Al Shabab spokesman then used Twitter to warn international oil companies operating in Puntland to cease operations, saying “Somali oil carries death.’’
Al Shabab decided to use part of its militia to infiltrate and carry out attacks in the capital of Mogadishu, currently under the control of African Union and Somali government troops. It also sent other fighters north to Puntland and sent some of its foreign volunteers to Yemen, a Nairobi-based analyst said.
Al Shabab has recently lost several high-profile foreign fighters in attacks by US drones, including Lebanese citizen Bilal al-Berjawi, a confidant of Al Qaeda’s top leader in East Africa.