Mogadishu, April 3, 2017: A Somali journalist who as abducted Saturday at gunpoint says he escaped from his kidnappers after the vehicle being used broke down.
Hanad Ali Guled was found early Sunday on a farm near Afgoye town, 30 kilometers west of Mogadishu. He said the vehicle used by his abductors broke down as they tried to move him from one location to another.
Initial reports indicated he was dumped there by the abductors, but Guled told VOA Somali that he escaped. His left hand and leg were chained tighter, he said during his captivity. He said five gunmen were involved in his abduction.
“At around 1 a.m., the vehicle we were traveling in broke down, three of the men got out and walked away as if they were trying to get help, two stayed with me,” he said.
He said the two guards then tried to fix the car, which gave him an opportunity to escape.
“I threw myself into a canal nearby and hid there for 30 minutes,” he said.
He related how the men went looking for him on the wrong side of the canal, and he then fled in the opposite direction.
He was found with his left hand and leg chained together. He contacted his wife who alerted his media station, Goobjoog. The station contacted police in Afgoye, who located him and escorted him to Mogadishu.
Police got a statement from Guled before he was taken to a hospital in the city for medical evaluation.
Guled works as a news producer at Goobjoog radio and television. He says he was abducted at about 8 a.m. on Saturday by five gunmen wearing Somali government soldiers’ uniforms after he left his home for work. He said two masked gunmen held pistols to his head and took him to a car with three other gunmen already inside.
He said he was initially taken to a location where he was interrogated by the gunmen.
“They asked me what I do, places I visit, if I am a member of NISA [National Intelligence and Security Agency] how long I was in the media?” he said.
During the interrogation, the abductors stomped on him several times, he said.
“They stomped on me, they walk away briefly, speak on the phone, then come back to continue interrogation,” he said.
Guled recently co-founded Media for Aid, a program aimed at encouraging journalists to play a role in helping drought victims. He said the abductors asked him about the Media for Aid campaign.
“I believe they were against what I have been doing recently, the Media for Aid campaign,” he said.
Asked if he suspected al-Shabab, he said he could not tell and could not recognize their faces.
Guled’s family said he received threatening phone calls the night before the abduction from anonymous callers. One of the co-founders of the Media for Aid campaign also said he received a phone call asking him about the appeal.
Mohamed Ibrahim Moallimu, secretary-general of National Union of Somali Journalists, says the identities of the abductors are still unknown, and no one has claimed responsibility. Moallimu said the search for the perpetrators will continue.
“The abduction has happened, but the question is who abducted him? That is the job of the security branches,” he said. “We don’t want the case to end there, we want security forces to go after it and find whoever is responsible.”
Somalia is one of the most dangerous places to be based as a journalist. Dozens of journalists have been killed, harassed or detained in the country over the past 10 years. (VOA)
Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops
In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS
June 25, 2017: The Islamic State group is rapidly expanding in parts of Afghanistan, advancing militarily into areas where it once had a weak presence and strengthening its forces in core regions, according to Afghan and U.S. officials.
Depending on the location, the proliferation of IS has drawn varied resistance from the Afghan military, U.S. air support and ground troops, local militias, Taliban forces and other militant groups.
Attacking IS has become such a priority in the country, that disparate forces sometimes join together in the ad-hoc fight, with Afghan and U.S. forces finding themselves inadvertently supporting the enemy Taliban in battling IS.
Confusion leads to mistakes
All too often, officials say, mistakes are made due to confusion on the ground.
Afghan army planes on Wednesday night accidentally air dropped vital supplies of food and water to IS militants in the Darzab district of northern Jouzjan province instead of to their own besieged troops, provincial police chief, Rahmatullah Turkistani told VOA. The supplies were meant to help Afghan forces that are countering twin attacks by IS and Taliban militants but were used instead by IS.
“It’s not getting better in Afghanistan in terms of IS,” U.S. Chief Pentagon Spokeswoman Dana White told VOA this week. “We have a problem, and we have to defeat them and we have to be focused on that problem.”
Reinforcements for the IS cause reportedly are streaming into isolated areas of the country from far and wide. There are reports of fighters from varied nationalities joining the ranks, including militants from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Russia and Central Asian neighbors.
Still, the Islamic State-Khorasan (ISK) as IS is known in Afghanistan remains a fragmented group composed of differing regional forces with different agendas in different parts of the country.
“IS-K is still conducting low-level recruiting and distribution of propaganda in various provinces across Afghanistan, but it does not have the ability or authority to conduct multiple operations across the country,” a recent Pentagon report said. But where it operates, IS is inflicting chaos and casualties and causing confusing scenarios for disparate opponents.
In the Tora Bora area, where IS has made a strong stand in recent days, local villagers and militias joined with Taliban to rout IS. IS regained ground after a few days, leading to U.S. military air attacks on IS positions in conjunction with Afghan intelligence instructions and army operations.
IS fighters reportedly have fled from mountain caves of Tora Bora, where al-Qaida’s leader Osama bin Laden hid from U.S. attack in 2001.
IS fighters were also reportedly advancing in neighboring Khogyani district, displacing hundreds of families, according to district officials. It is one of several areas in Nangarhar province, near the Pakistani border, where IS has been active for over two years.
Fierce clashes in the Chaparhar district of Nangarhar last month left 21 Taliban fighters and seven IS militants dead, according to a provincial spokesman. At least three civilians who were caught in the crossfire were killed and five others wounded.
“IS has overpowered Taliban in some parts of Nangarhar because the Taliban dispatched its elite commando force called Sara Qeta (Red Brigade) to other parts of the country, including some northern provinces to contain the growing influence of IS there,” Wahid Muzhda, a Taliban expert in Kabul, told VOA.
IS has also expanded in neighboring Kunar province, where, according to provincial police chief, it has a presence in at least eight districts and runs a training base, where foreign members of IS, train new recruits.
Hundreds of miles from Nangarhar, IS is attempting to establish a persistent presence in several northern provinces where it has found a fertile ground for attracting militants and recruiting unemployed youths, mostly between the age of 13 and 20.
IS has been able to draw its members from the Pakistani Taliban fighters, former Afghan Taliban, and other militants who “believe that associating with or pledging allegiance” to IS will further their interests, according to the Pentagon report.
Hundreds of militants have joined IS ranks in northern Jouzjan and Sar-e-Pul province where local militant commanders lead IS-affiliate groups in several districts.
Qari Hekmat, an ethnic Uzbek and former Taliban militant who joined IS a year ago, claims to have up to 500 members, including around 50 Uzbek nationals who are affiliated with the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) — previously associated with al-Qaida and Taliban in Afghanistan.
IS and Taliban are reportedly fighting over the control of Darzab district in Jouzjan which they stormed this week from two different directions and besieged scores of government forces. The Taliban has reportedly captured the center of the district while IS militants control the city outskirts.
Afghanistan faces a continuing threat from as many as 20 insurgent and terrorist networks present or operating in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, including IS, the Pentagon said.
“In areas where the government has limited influence and control, IS attempts to emerge and expand there,” Ateequllah Amarkhail, an analysts and former Army general in Kabul told VOA.
IS has also claimed responsibility for several recent attacks in urban areas, however, with a hit-and-hide strategy that is proving effective. And it is engaging too in more skirmishes with U.S. forces that initially were sent to the country to help Afghan forces halt the spread of Taliban.
Three American service members based in eastern Afghanistan were killed in April during operations targeting IS militants, according to the Pentagon.
“ISIS-K remains a threat to Afghan and regional security, a threat to U.S. and coalition forces, and it retains the ability to conduct high-profile attacks in urban centers,” the Pentagon said. (VOA)