Somalilandsun – Many accounts misapprehend the nature of the relationship between Somaliland and al-Shabaab.
The relationship, in fact, goes far beyond contact and coexistence, with significant financial assistance by Somaliland’s Ministry of Interior and Intelligence Agency providing the bulk of al-Shabaab’s financing and weapons, according to sources and al-Shabaab captured leaders. Somaliland intelligence is directly funded by foreign intelligence agencies, according to reports.
Somaliland Minister of Interior Ali Waran-Ade and other senior political, military, and business leaders including former ministers Mohamed Bihi Yonis, Hirsi Ali Hassan, and Suleiman Esa Ahmed as well as Colonel Muse Bihi Abdi and Abdirashid Duale, the CEO of Dahabshiil have actively financed and supported al-Shabaab as part of a strategy to undermine political and security progress in Somalia and boost support for Somaliland recognition.
Somaliland uses western economic development and security funds to finance al-Shabaab operations in Somalia. Waran-Ade, a former senior intelligence officer for the Siyad Barre’s National Security Services (NSS) directed financing and provided material support to al-Shabaab operations.
Al-Shabaab has a strong support in Somaliland, according to captured senior al-Shabaab commander and the government orchestrates, sustains as well as strongly influences the movement operations in Somalia. Somaliland also gives sanctuary to the families of senior al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida leaders, and provides support in terms of training, funding, munitions, and supplies for al-Shabaab. In their words, this is ‘as clear as the sun in the sky’.
Directly or indirectly Somaliland appears to exert significant influence on the strategic decision-making and field operations of al-Shabaab; and has greater away over operatives. According to recently defected al-Shabaab commander, Somaliland intelligence controls al-Shabaab’s counterintelligence units “Amniyat”, who are recruited from radical mosques in Hargeisa, Burco, Berbera Gabiley and Borama.
Former al-Shabaab operatives confirmed that the Somaliland Intelligence was represented on the al-Shabaab leadership council, known as the Shura, and the Security Council. Indeed, the agency appears to have circumscribed the al-Shabaab’s strategic autonomy.
Waran-Ade himself has apparently assured senior al-Shabaab leaders that they are ‘our people’ and have his backing. He has also apparently authorized al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida fighters and supporters release from Somaliland prisons, including senior al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula operative who was captured in Berbera on his way to Lower Shebelle to meet with al-Shabaab Emir Ahmed Umar.
In 2012, Somaliland police detained and released al-Shabaab Emir Ahmed Godane, al-Shabaab external operation leader Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulkadir (Ikrima) and operative Ismail Muse, reportedly now head of al-Shabaab Mogadishu operations, who is one of the highest ranking in the movement below al-Shabaab Emir Ahmed Umar. The group was in Burco to meet with al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula emissaries and Dahabshiil and other al-Shabaab financiers.
Somaliland’s involvement with al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula is having a major implication for the international community. The governments of Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti have all been alarmed by the Somaliland, al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida nexus. Ethiopia and Djibouti have restricted borders with Somaliland.
Diplomatic outposts and international organizations have been instructed to relocate from Hargeisa to Mogadishu and limit contacts with senior Somaliland government officials.
Through providing sanctuary and support to al-Shabaab, Somaliland appears to be able to exert significant influence on al-Shabaab strategy. As a Somaliland political figure summarized: ‘Somaliland has some control “over the al-Shabaab”. They have influence in al-Shabaab’s decision-making. Sure, they have dominated the movement, but al-Shabaab has some independence. Likewise, a security analyst said: ‘al-Shabaab is obliged to accept Somaliland demands – it needs their support.’
The Somaliland-al-Shabaab relationship is founded on mutual benefits. Al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida need external sanctuary, as well as military and logistical support to sustain their insurgency in Somalia and Yemen. As a former al-Shabaab operative put it: ‘Somaliland are helping al-Shabaab a lot, but they only give for their own gain. According to the conflict analyst: ‘there is not an equal relationship between Somaliland and al-Shabaab – Somaliland is far more powerful. Al-Shabaab doesn’t have any choice except to live in Somaliland; where else can they go?’
Somaliland Leadership Collusion with Foreign Terrorist Organization’s
Security experts are divided on the extent to which Somaliland policy towards al-Shabaab insurgents is determined independently of civilian officials. Somaliland officials were aware of Waran-Ade’s and Somaliland intelligence role in supporting al-Shabaab and were actively encouraging it.’
The Daallo Airlines terrorist incident in early February and the bombing of seafood restaurant in Mogadishu suggest that the policy is approved at the highest level of Somaliland government. Al-Shabaab senior operative Ismail Muse, who planned, coordinated and financed both Daallo Airline and Mogadishu seafood restaurant attacks made several trips to Hargeisa, Burco and Borama to meet with Dahabshiil and senior Somaliland intelligence officer code name “Dagaxbuur”.
According to western intelligence source Dahabshiil deposited $50,000.00 monthly to secret account at the banks main office in Mogadishu to support Ismail Muse. Dahabshiil also deposited $18,000.00 to the bank account of senior Somali National Intelligence and Security Agency (NISA) who was recently implicated and arrested for the Daallo Airline attack.
Somaliland Intelligence Operations in Somalia
Al-Shabaab commanders believe Somaliland shapes their operations in Somalia in a powerful, surreptitious and coercive way. Somaliland intelligence is part of Amniyat operational command. Certainly, insurgent skills and capabilities at the operational and tactical level suggest the involvement of trained professional military personnel. As a former security official said: ‘they give them the plans, the strategy and new techniques. The chain goes back to Somaliland.
Al-Shabaab Sanctuary, Funding, Munitions and Supplies
Al-Shabaab has a number of sources of external support, and there is little doubt that Somaliland is increasing the arms, funding and training they provide to the insurgents. Somaliland involvement in the early stages of the insurgency has been widely acknowledged. Somaliland were operating training camps for al-Shabaab recruits, and facilitating the supply of funds, equipment and arms.
Dahabshiil the Terror Bank of Choice for al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida
Dahabshiil financial support for al-Shabaab is diverse as confirmed by western intelligence officials. Dahabshiil collects al-Shabaab funds from charitable donations, applied to businessmen or farmers, especially traffickers; ransom from kidnappings; protection money from contractors or officials. Al-Shabaab funds are deposited to Dahabshiil in Hargeisa. A selected al-Shabaab financiers and facilitators have access to the funds and they manage the group’s funding, munitions and supplies.
As al-Shabaab military commander put it: ‘we receive salary, training, weapons, ammunition and expenses from Somaliland. … Everyone knows Somaliland gives money; it goes centrally, and then flows down. Another al-Shabaab commander said: ‘Of course, it’s a huge project, the insurgency needs huge funding, IEDs [improvised explosive devices], ammunition, training, needs everything, all of this has been given by Somaliland. We do not have facilities to produce any of this.
Somaliland will continue its terrorist-related activities, including support for al-Shabaab and al-Qa’ida. Somaliland views al-Shabaab terrorism and insurgency as a crucial in its recognition strategy. The more Somalia suffers, the better chances for Somaliland becoming independent state. Somaliland has continued to generate significant concern regarding the role it plays in terrorist financing.
Dahabshiil continues to operate in vast black market and unregulated economy of Somalia. The hawala networks remained intertwined with terrorism financing, smuggling and transaction-based money laundering. This raises significant concerns that some members of the Somaliland government and the business elite were complicit in terrorist finance schemes.
The international community is working with the Somali Federal Government on sanctions to stop Somaliland support of foreign terrorist organization. The international community and the Somali government are also working on financial, military, and economic sanctions as well travel restriction and terrorist designation for Waran-Ade, Dagaxbuur, Dahabshiil and several other senior Somaliland officials, according to credible source.
Peter Wolfson & Greta Backstrom
Nairobi, Kenya & Stockholm, Sweden