April 26th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Witnesses: al Qaeda-linked group on edge of pirate town

Islamist militants have converged along the edge of a Somali pirate town, preparing for a possible face off with a group that rejects al Qaeda, a local journalist and witnesses told CNN Monday.

While one witness said the government-aligned Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamma militia stopped Al-Shabaab fighters, CNN could not immediately confirm that report from the remote pirate town of Haradhere.

However, several witnesses and a spokesman for Ahlu Sunna insisted Al-Shabaab was still outside town, saying village elders told the Islamist militants to stay out.

The Ahlu Sunna spokesman told the journalist that his group sent scouts to Haradhere, and that the militia is planning to attack Al-Shabaab.

Clashes between Alhu Sunna and Al-Shabaab, which has ties to al Qaeda, have flared up in recent months. Al-Shabaab, which has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, is waging a war against the Somali government in an effort to implement a strict form of Islamic law, called sharia.

As al-Shabaab has been working its way toward Harardhere, pirates in the town fled - some by boat, others to different parts of the country, witnesses and the local journalist reported.

"All pirates deserted the town and they also took the hijacked ships they had deep into the waters," said Mohamed, a witness who was only identified by his first name for security reasons.

But Monday, al-Shabaab stopped short of the pirate port after Ahlu Sunna took its defense positions, Mohamed said.

Pirates recently captured a boat loaded with weapons from Yemen that were intended for al-Shabaab and had stopped paying bribes to the Islamists, said a journalist in Harardhere, whose identity is not being disclosed for security reasons.

Ahlu Sunna is a large, moderate, Sufi Islam religious denomination that has been fighting extremists like al-Shabaab for about a year. 

Somalia's government recently announced a new alliance and peace deal with Ahlu Sunna.  "The agreement with Ahlu Sunna is a historic success for the Somali people and it is a further positive step for the full return of Somalia's nationhood," President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said last month.

In Mogadishu over the weekend, al-Shabaab battled government troops in a clash that killed at least 10 people, ambulance crews and the local journalist reported Sunday. 

Al-Shabaab is trying to topple Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government. 

The fighting has escalated a long-running humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa nation, which has not had an effective central government since 1991.       

U.N. reports have found that Yemen is a source for arms shipments into Somalia despite a longstanding U.N. embargo on weapons. The Yemeni government, which is battling its own al Qaeda uprising, has attempted to crack down on arms dealing within its territory but also faces an influx of Somali refugees.

- Journalist Mohamed Amiin Adow and CNN's Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.

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Filed under: Somalia • World
soundoff (9 Responses)
  1. anthony

    Its the Atheist Militants we REALLY need to be worried about Amirite or amitrite? xD

    April 26, 2010 at 8:41 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Icywongh

    The humantarian criss in Somalia is very devastating and unbearable.The UN have being doing quite a very job in Somalia but should do more in terms of arms shipment and dealings with al Qaeda linked group in Yemen and Somalia.

    April 27, 2010 at 12:26 am | Report abuse |
  3. Mohamed

    AlShabab versus pirates both evil groups jus reminds the world community should act fast to save the innocent ones of somalia

    April 27, 2010 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  4. Luigi

    Wait?! CNN says the journalist only wants to be identified by his first name, but then prints his full name under the article?! lol

    April 27, 2010 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |
  5. Guy Kimble

    We as Americans should do what we can for Somalia and Yemen. They are in fact brothers in arms for the same cause to wipe out extremists. The United States needs to commit full to their fight.

    April 27, 2010 at 6:19 am | Report abuse |
  6. Mwalemo diego

    It is indeed astonishing to see the international community adopt a wait and see attitude towards the unfolding somali political and humanitarian spectacle! The consequences of such an approach is far reaching and to say the least catastrophic! How can the world allow Al-shabbab and company have a field day arming and re-arming themselves,enlisting new recruits,stockpiling explosive belts,communications equipment etc. Are african and other forces waiting to fight a fully fledghed military force rather than nipping these terror organisations in the the bud. We in kenya have suffered spate of deadly attacks perpetrated by alqaeda elements. What will stronger al-shabab portends to kenya, east africa and the world? It is time we make a move!

    April 27, 2010 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
  7. s

    @ Guy Kimble: OK, after you, Guy...

    April 27, 2010 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
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