Somalia: UAE soldiers secretly land in Puntland
BOSASO, ( GO) - Dozens of United Arab Emirates [UAE] soldiers have been secretly landing in the coastal city of Bossaso in Puntland, multiple security sources have confirmed to Garowe Online. This will be the first time that the UAE government has returned to Somalia since the deterioration of their relationship with the former president of Somalia Mohamad Abdulahi Farmajo.
Sources who spoke in confidence said at least 12 military flights carrying Emirati soldiers and 250 RG-33 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles have been landing at Puntland's Bosaso Airport on the Gulf of Aden secretly since early last month, with their mission in Somalia remaining unknown.
The clandestine arrangement, sources added, has been ongoing for over a month now, which could damage the reputation of regional leader Said Abdullahi Deni, who has been under siege from local leaders.
The sources further claimed the Emirati soldiers estimated at 180 in number, are stationed at the bases of the PMPF, the UAE-trained and funded maritime police force in the coastal city of Puntland in northern Somalia. The elite police are trained to tackle piracy in the porous Somali coastline.
Until now, it remains unknown if the Somali government is aware of the UAE troops' arrival in Bossaso, which comes at a critical time when the term of Puntland's current President Deni is ending, and the state is facing a political stalemate over a planned controversial municipal election.
For decades, Somalia has had diplomacy tussles with UAE, which escalated during Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, leading to strained relationships. For instance, Farmajo intercepted close to $9.6 million that UAE had donated to the country to help pay the Somali National Army.
But Villa Somalia, at that time, questioned the intent of the money, claiming that there was a conspiracy to undermine authority in the country. Central Bank of Somalia released the funds following the change of regime, which saw Hassan Sheikh Mohamud bounce back, and have since been diverted to mitigation of drought.
On record, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is on good terms with UAE, but it is unclear if he is aware of the developments. Upon taking over from Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, Hassan Sheikh did visit UAE, where he held talks with the Middle East nation and pledged close collaboration between the two countries.
In Puntland, Deni is facing a revolt from a number of local politicians who accuse him of dictatorship, something which has frequently been dismissed. Last year, a couple of opposition parties accused him of manipulating local polls, leading to the victory of his party in the first direct poll within the state.
Earlier this year, Deni also came under sharp criticism from a number of stakeholders following the differences between the Puntland regional forces and the elite troops who the United States initially funded. Clan elders would later solve the stalemate.
Somalia has been tackling internal challenges triggered by political differences, and at the same time, the Al-Shabaab militants have seized the opportunity to unleash terror on innocent people. Puntland, however, has remained relatively peaceful save for the latest political dramas engineered by the current administration.