Islamic State-aligned group takes Somali town, say officials

Wed Oct 26, 2016 12:54pm GMT

By Feisal Omar and Abdi Sheikh

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - A group loyal to Islamic State seized a small port town in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region on Wednesday, a move officials said gave it control of a town for the first time since it emerged as a force a year ago.

Islamic State, a rival to the larger al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab, seized Qandala port after a brief fight with local security forces. African peacekeepers are not deployed in Puntland, at the eastern tip of the Horn of Africa.

Islamic State, also known as Daesh, seized Qandala port after a short fight with Puntland forces.

"Qandala town fell into the hands of Daesh (Islamic State)this morning. Our soldiers were few and so could not fight longer," district commissioner Jamac Mohamed Khuurshe said.

Soldiers and many residents have fled and Islamic State had cut off Qandala's communications, he told Reuters.

Somalia's federal government and regional authorities have long battled an Islamist insurgency by al Shabaab, which once controlled much of Somalia.

Earlier on Wednesday, al Shabaab seized a town in southern Somalia after African troops and Somali government troops withdrew, part of an ongoing back and forth between the two sides in which territory is often taken and lost.

Islamic State has been gathering recruits in Puntland, although experts say the scale of its force is unclear and it remains a small player compared to al Shabaab.   Continued...

Powered by Reuters AlertNet. AlertNet provides news, images and insight from the world's disasters and conflicts and is brought to you by Reuters Foundation.