Beledweyne (Allbanaadir Media) – On Tuesday, Somali security forces arrested six traditional elders in Beledweyne, accusing them of violating the government’s ban on dealings with the extremist group Al-Shabab.
The clan elders were taken into custody during a planned operation in a village near Halgan district in the Hiran region.
The elders are accused of visiting an area controlled by the militant group and entering into a pact with Al-Shabab promising to withdraw fighters from their clan from the government-led campaign against the group.
The move follows the recent sentencing of three elders to five years in prison by a military court in the capital Mogadishu for making a similar dealing with the militant groups in Harardhere city in Mudug region.
The traditional elders, Omar Mohamed Jimale Adan (Omar Faninte), Ali Ahmed Hayle Araalle (Ali Yare), and Sugaal Warsame Ali Yarow, were arrested in late December after defying the government’s directive not to communicate or cooperate with Al-Shabab militants.
The three men traveled to the Haradhere district – then controlled by Al-Shabab – and signed an eight-point agreement with the militants. Among the pact was to oppose the Somali government’s military offensive against Al-Shabab.
The HirShabelle administration, where the city of Beledweyne is located, issued a stern warning against obedience to Al-Shabab’s directives on January 20th, announcing that anyone obeying their orders would face retribution.
The Somali government has recently been escalating its fight against Al-Shabab, removing the group from swathes of territories in central Somalia.
The government’s campaign against the militant group includes ideological and financial war; thus, any dealing with the group is seen as legitimizing its authority.
Last month the government announced it has closed down over 250 known bank accounts and 70 mobile money transfer firms linked to the group, per Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre.
“The government has closed down about 250 accounts linked with the militants in four banks and the network and the data services of about 70 mobile phones the militants were using to transfer money,” the Prime Minister said.
In response, the group’s official spokesperson, Sheikh Ali Dheere, stated that Al-Shabab would not “accept” the practice of some banks giving “information” about their customers to strangers, referring to the government.
Al-Shabab is known to generate revenue through various means, including punitive taxation and ransom payments. Al-Shabab uses part of its revenue to pay its active fighters and maintain its territories.
A report by the United States estimates that the group has an annual budget of $100 million, with $24 million allocated for the purchase of weapons.