Violence Hits Quiet Somali Region

At least one person was killed and three were wounded in two explosions that hit the relatively quiet Puntland region in northeastern Somalia on Saturday.

All the casualties were Ethiopian nationals, news reports said.

Witnesses said an explosion in of Puntland’s commercial city Bosasso took place near the headquarters of the Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS).

Last Monday, PIS agents arrested a cleric for alleged ties with A-Shabab, an Islamic group seeking to undermine the central government in Somalia, according to media reports.

Last week, at least two civilians and one policeman were killed and seven others were wounded after hundreds of stampeding demonstrators took to the streets of Bosasso to protest the cleric’s detention.

Protesters hurled stones and metal objects while approaching a police post. Officers fired shots into the air in order to clear one of the nearby roads, but shot dead two of the protesters and wounded seven others, Nimco Afrah, a nearby shopkeeper told The Media Line.

Puntland’s Vice President Abdi Samad Ali Shire said it was still uncertain whether troops arrested the sheikh, and urged people to maintain calm. However, Puntland Security Minister Abdullahi Said Samatar confirmed that security forces had arrested the sheikh and that he was being interrogated.

Both Puntland and the neighboring Somaliland are relatively quiet areas of Somalia, which has been plunged in conflict for the past two years.

Puntland is a self-declared autonomous state, which has been self-governing since 1998, but unlike Somaliland, it does not seek independence from Somalia.

Puntland is home to a third of the Somali people.

Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991.

Violence in the country, particularly in the capital Mogadishu, has claimed thousands of lives. Many civilians have been killed in crossfire as gunmen roam the streets. Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes in recent months.

In addition, Somalia is also blighted by famine, disease, poverty and piracy.

Several Islamist groups do not recognize the new government, even though it is headed by the former leader of the Islamic Courts Union, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad.

The political vacuum and other problems have allowed lawlessness to flourish, with pirates controlling Somalia’s waters and Islamists and other factions the streets.

An AFP report last week said foreign jihad warriors have been flocking to Somalia over the past few months and joining forces with local Al-Qa’ida sympathizers in order to turn the anarchic country into an Al-Qa’ida haven.

According to the report, some 450 fighters are cooperating with the homegrown A-Shabab Islamists.

A former Somalia security official said the numbers of foreigners entering the country were increasing dramatically. He said they hailed from Europe, the United States, the Middle East and Asia, and many were concentrated in Puntland.

The Puntland government has dismissed the report as unsubstantiated and false allegations.

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