'The Islamic State branch in Somalia working with Al-Shabaab'

    MOGADISHU, Somalia - The Department of Treasury of the United States has alleged that there was a possibility that ISIS-linked militants in Somalia were working closely with other terror groups such as Al-Shabaab, making it difficult for the world to effectively deal with the fight against terrorism.

    While designating key members of IS-Somalia militants, the department accused them of being part of a "terrorist weapons trafficking network" across East Africa. While IS-Somalia is in small sections of Puntland in Somalia, Al-Shabaab is predominant in the country.

    Those designated, the US said, have been selling weapons to active terrorists both in Al-Shabaab and ISIS branch in Somalia. Traditionally, the two groups have never worked together but Washington alleges that they could be cooperating in selling and purchasing weapons.

    The Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist group claimed responsibility for two car bombs that exploded outside the education ministry in Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Saturday, killing at least 128 people in the deadliest blasts since a truck bomb killed more than 500 people at the same location five years ago.

    Washington is keen to help Somalia effectively fight terrorism, with disruption of financial networks being key in the latest strategy. In Somalia, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has warned business owners against funding Al-Shabaab militants and other terror groups.

    Tuesday's move was the first targeting IS-Somalia militants who are limited to mountainous regions of Bari within Puntland, whose activities have been intensifying lately. In 2018, the US State Department officially designated the Islamic State in Somalia as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

    The Treasury said the Islamic State in Somalia "commonly works with other terrorist organizations" such as al Shabaab and Somali pirates and smuggling groups.

    "Many of the relevant individuals are also involved in other illegal activities, including piracy and environmental crimes, demonstrating their integration with illicit networks operating in the region," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said in a separate statement.

    Those designated on Tuesday include Abdirahman Mohamed Omar, whom the Treasury accused of being an ISIS-Somalia member and, as of 2020, considered the most active illicit arms importer in Puntland state in Somalia, Reuters reports.

    Also designated was Isse Mohamoud Yusuf, who Treasury said is an ISIS-Somalia weapons and logistics facilitator in Bari in Puntland and an arms smuggler; Abdirahman Fahiye Isse Mohamud, who it said is an ISIS-Somalia emir; and Mohamed Ahmed Qahiye, who Treasury said is the head of the Amniyat, al Shabaab's intelligence wing, among others.

    Somalia has been battling with violent extremism for over a decade, with both Al-Shabaab and IS-Somalia seeking dominance across the country. The government has heightened the fight against the militants while encouraging locals to take arms against the militants.

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    Evarist Chahali

    Evarist Chahali

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