Abdullahi "Irro" Ismail, Somaliland's interior minister, told the BBC Somali Service on Saturday that the militants organizing in the outskirts of eastern Burao are loyal to Mr. Hersi Ali Haji Hassan, a businessman who was arrested by local police last week.
"Hersi Ali has links to al Shabaab," Interior Minister Irro said, adding that he will be brought to court after Somaliland police found "telecommunications evidence" during an investigation.
Mr. Hersi Ali, who recently resigned from the Somaliland Election Commission, has openly opposed a trade agreement the Somaliland administration signed with Saudi Arabian company Al Jabberi, sources said. Somaliland's Livestock Traders Union, for which Mr. Hersi Ali was deputy chairman, has opposed the Al Jabberi deal on grounds that the agreement gives the Saudi company a "monopoly" over rights to export Somaliland livestock aboard. Dahir Riyale, the Somaliland leader, issued a directive last week allowing the export of livestock already on the grounds of the Port of Berbera, but effectively banning any export thereafter as part of the Al Jabberi deal. Somaliland has deployed extra troops in and around Burao, where the government says its searching for the 'al Shabaab' fighters and armed trucks. But a local analyst speaking on the condition of anonymity told Garowe Online that Mr. Hersi Ali's arrest is "political," saying that he was opposition party Kulmiye's hand-picked man for the Election Commission. The militia gathering in the outskirts of Burao belong to the clan of the arrested trader, the source added. Al Shabaab, which the U.S. government considers a terrorist organization, is very active in much of southern Somalia, especially in Mogadishu where the insurgents have claimed responsibility for attacks on government troops and allied Ethiopian forces. Somaliland, in Somalia's northwestern regions, unilaterally declared independence from the rest of the country in 1991 but has not gained international recognition.
Source: Garowe Online