Balidhidhin, Puntland, Somalia –
Twelve individuals associated with the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Somalia (ISS) group, including foreign fighters, have surrendered to Puntland security forces. The militants defected from the Daesh-affiliated group stationed in the mountains of al-Miskad in Puntland’s Bari region.
Among the twelve fighters were six foreigners, of which four were Ethiopians and two Sudanese. The remaining six were Somali citizens. Their surrender is taking place less than a week after another significant sweep by Puntland Police Command. As we reported earlier, the Puntland authorities captured a number of key ISS figures in Amaamo, Balidhidhin, including high-ranking Sudanese commander Mohamed Ibrahim Daha.
Victims of exploitative practices
Two of the foreign fighters explained that they had arrived in the city of Bosaso, seeking employment opportunities. They claimed to have been offered jobs prior to their arrival but were later coerced into joining the militants in the remote mountain area.
Major General Abdiqadir Jama Dirir, the commander of the Bari regional police department, emphasized that the surrendering individuals were initially seeking employment. Their vulnerable circumstances were then exploited by the so-called Islamic State’s affiliate.
The commander then went on to explain that they had escaped from the misguided ideology of Daesh. He further cautioned individuals seeking employment to be cautious of falling victim to such exploitative practices, which could lead to unfavourable outcomes. Indeed, many recruits joining al-Shabaab and ISS are often impoverished individuals, only seeking a means of livelihood.
ISS and al-Shabaab rivalry in the region
A Puntland security source told the Somali Digest that al-Shabaab and ISS have been fighting in the highlands near Balidhidhin, and al-Shabaab seems to be gaining the upper hand. This rivalry is probably one of the reasons for the downward spiral of ISS.
Despite its limited reach and number of fighters, the Somali faction of Daesh has managed to wield significant influence within the Islamic State’s propaganda networks. Upon their initial arrival in the region in 2015 and 2016, the group consisted of just about 20 fighters. However, their ranks gradually expanded to include approximately 250 to 300 fighters, including individuals from outside of Somalia.