A militant group linked to the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" (IS) has taken control of a small port in the Horn of Africa. The organization is a rival to the al-Shabab terror group, which is linked with al-Qaida.
"Our soldiers were few and so could not fight longer," Jamac Mohamed Khuurshe, a senior official in Qandala in Somalia's semi-autonomous Puntland region told reporters on Wednesday. Soldiers fled and militants cut off all communications to the town, Khuurshe said.
There are no African peacekeepers employed in Puntland, which is located at the Horn of Africa. The town of Qandala is the first that IS has occupied in Somalia.
Amaq, a media service associated with IS, also confirmed the attack, saying Qandala had been taken by "Islamic State fighters."
"We just saw Daesh with their black banner as we were fishing. They said to us: 'Don't panic. We will rule you according to the Islamic Sharia (law)," a fisherman told Reuters news agency.
Puntland Islamists announced their affiliation with IS a year ago in a statement on YouTube. The Somalian group is led by a former al-Shabab commander called Abdiqadir Mumin.
IS has been fishing for recruits in Somalia, but experts say it is unclear how many supporters it has. However, they estimate the group remains small compared to al-Shabab.
Meanwhile, the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab did not comment on the Puntland incident, but its militants seized a small town in southern Somalia, called Tiyeeglow, earlier on Wednesday. They also claimed responsibility for the murder of a 60-year-old army officer called Siyad Mohamed in the capital Mogadishu.
mg/gsw (AFP, Reuters)