The president of Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Mr. Abdirahman Mohamed Farole has recently held a meeting with Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister, Seyoum Mesfin in Addis Ababa.

The meeting which took place in Sheraton hotel, focused on number of issues including regional security as well as the Puntland cabinet ministers.

According to a sources close to Mr. Farole, the Ethiopian government disapproved Mr. Farole’s presidential decree, dated March 12th, ordering the dismissal of Puntland Intelligence Service (PIS) director, Mr. Osman Diana (see SOMALIA: Puntland President Dashes to Ethiopia For an Emergency Meeting). The PIS is said to receive at least 50 per cent of Puntland’s annual income as well as funds from Western and Ethiopian intelligence services.

While the two were discussing the issue, the Ethiopian Foreign Affairs Minister, Mr. Mesfin, has expressed concern about a number ministers and provincial officials in the Puntland government accusing them of having ties with extremists in southern Somalia.

Mr. Mesfin, accused Puntland’s national planning minister, Mr. Daud Mohamed Omar and number of others including the governor of Bari region, Sheikh Abdihafid Ali Yusuf, the Mayor of Garowe (capital of Puntland), Mr. Abdiaziz Nur Elmi Koor, mayor of Bossaso town, Mr. Mohamud Farah Beldaje and the mayor of Galkayo, Mr Abdirahman Mohamud Haji Hassan of having ties with Somalia’s Islamists rebels fighting the TFG in southern Somalia.

Mr. Mesfin told the Puntlander leader that, Ethiopia has evidence that Puntland’s planning minister’s car was one of the vehicles used in the trio-suicide bombs that rocked Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, in October 2008. The bombs strucked the presidential palace, the Ethiopian Consulate and a United Nations compound, killing 21 people and wounded 26 people.

Mr. Mesfin has also briefed the Puntland delegation that the newly appointed governor of Bari region, Sheikh Abdihafid Ali Yusuf, was exposed to Islamic radicalism while studying in Pakistan and that him and his friends have close ties with Al Qaeda. He added that most of his former friends were detained and sent to Guantanamo Bay.

He added that the mayor of Garowe, Mr. Abdiaziz Nur Elmi Koor, who was appointed by Farole in September 2009, has also ties with extremists elements in Somalia. Mr. Mesfin said that Mr. Abdiaziz was a former member of Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, an extremist group that established itself in the Somali Region of Ethiopia in 1994. By 2001, it elected the well known Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys as its leader under Executive Order No. 13224 in November of that year. The Ethiopian FM cited that Mr. Abdiaziz was injured in a battle that took place inside Puntland, when then, Puntland president, Mr. Abdullahi Yusuf waged war on the extremist group in early 2002.

Short time later, Al-Itihaad had dissolved as an organization but Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys went on to form Islamic Court Union, which by 2006 became a powerful group and seized control of Mogadishu and southern Somalia. By December 2006, Ethiopian forces invaded the country and the group was ousted from power, most of their leaders went on exile to Eritrea however those who stayed back formed a new group – Al Shabab, now the most feared group in the region.

The Ethiopian foreign minister also voiced concern about the Mayor of Galkayo, capital of Mudug region in central Somalia saying that the little known businessman, Mr. Abdirahman Mohamud Haji, who heads a 31-member District Council, has ties with terrorist groups and was accused of providing financial aid to Islamic Court Union fighters during the battles of Idile (located Bay region), in October 2006 against Ethiopian forces.

Also, the newly appointed transitional mayor of Bossaso town, Mr. Mohamud Farah Muhammad (Beeldaaje) was also accused having ties with terrorism. Mr. Mesfin told Farole that Mr. Mohamud was a close alley of Dahir Aweys and is a former member of Al-Itihaad.

The Ethiopians finally recommended to Mr. Farole to dismiss these men from his cabinet and provincial councils and to appoint new men while requesting that he reverses his decree and reinstates the former PIS leader.

It is not clear if Mr. Farole will follow up with the Ethiopian recommendations when he returns back home.

The Puntland delegation included the Interior minister, Mr. Abdullahi Ahmed.

Somalilandpress, 4 April 2010