Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Puntland on high alert amid search for escaped Alshabab prisoners

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Ten Alshabab militants escaped from a rehabilitation center on Sunday night in the town of Garowe Somalia’s northeastern semi-autonomous region of Puntland.

The escape occurred at around 8 p.m. local time, when the militants managed to scale a wall and slip into the darkness, the sources said.

Puntland region officials refused to speak to the media about the escape, but sources said that the Puntland leader, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gas, has ordered an investigation and high alert  has been issued amid search for escaped Alshabab prisoners.

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One of the militants was caught on Monday while three others were apprehended on Tuesday. The six on the run include Tahlil Hussein Ali, who is believed to be the escapees’ leader.

“Officials believe these men are in the countryside still running from security forces,” said an intelligence official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The men were al-Shabab fighters captured during gun battles between Puntland forces and the militants in March 2016 after al-Shabab launched an ill-fated seaborne raid on coastal towns.

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They were placed at the rehabilitation center in an effort to reintegrate them into Somali society. The project was funded by an international aid organization, according to documents seen by the Media.

Security sources tell VOA that the escape is suspicious, as the men did not break any doors prior to getting out. Guards at the center are being questioned.

In November, some inmates at the center physically attacked the guards in an attempt to escape but that effort failed, officials said.

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