Missing Somaliland religious scholar found in Al-Shabaab stronghold
HARGEISA, Somalia - A controversial religious scholar from Somaliland who has been missing for days now has reportedly been found in a town in southern Somalia which is controlled by Al-Shabaab, the Interior and Security ministry of the breakaway region has confirmed.
"The cleric and his entire family have fled to southern Somalia and he may have joined Al-Shabaab in Jilib, Middle Jubba region," said Somaliland's Deputy Minister of Security Abdullahi Hussein Mohamed.
Sheikh Adan Sunne, who was recently released from jail on bail has been on the radar of security forces in Somaliland on suspicions of having links with Al-Shabaab, according to the sources. He is now in Jilib which serves as headquarters of the Al-Qaida linked group.
The Islamic scholar had gone missing and efforts to locate him have been futile, forcing authorities in Somaliland to launch a man haunt which ended up locating him in the Al-Shabaab stronghold. He traveled to the Al-Shabaab bastion by land, per Mohamed.
Al-Shabaab is yet to confirm that Sunne settled in Jilib town after his defection from the breakaway region, Somaliland.
Al-Shabaab has been closely working with some religious scholars as it pushes to topple the fragile UN-backed Somalia government in the Horn of Africa nation which is protected by AU troops.
Last month, the group claimed responsibility for the death of Islamic scholar Sheikh Abdinasir who died in a bomb fitted to his car in Kismayo, Jubaland state.
Jilib town has been one of the no-go zones in Somalia with the security forces and the US Africa Command often targeting the town with missiles and drown strikes. A number of key Al-Shabaab militants have been killed in the town.
On Monday, US ambassador to Somalia Larry Andre admitted that the group has become stronger in recent months, adding that there is a need to change strategy in tackling it. The envoy blamed politicians for focusing too much on delayed elections instead of assisting stakeholders to contain the situation.
It is estimated that there are close to 7,000 active Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia who are fairly empowered given the huge taxes they collect from the people. In Somaliland, the group does not have any recognizable presence according to intelligence sources.