UAE secretly deploys troops, military hardware to northeastern Somalia

UAE troops
A soldier from the United Arab Emirates stands guard next to a UAE military plane at the airport of Yemen's southern port city of Aden August 8, 2015. REUTERS/Nasser Awad

MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – The United Arab Emirates has secretly deployed dozens of troops and military equipment to northeastern Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland, Garowe Online reported on Tuesday.

About 12 flights carrying troops and 250 RG-33 Mine Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles landed at the airport of the commercial port city of Bosaso since early last month, the media outlet cited security sources as saying.

Security officials estimated the number of Emirati officials deployed to the region at 180, who are currently stationed at bases belonging to PMPF, a regional naval force trained, funded and equipped by the UAE.

The motive behind the renewed Emirati troop deployment in Puntland has not yet been clear. It is so far unknown whether the new Somali administration of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is aware of the move, which has come amid simmering tensions in the region over an upcoming controversial municipal election.

Some of the semi-autonomous region’s political stakeholders earlier warned that the regional leader Saeed Abdullahi Deni is planning to serve beyond his mandate as his constitutional term nears an end. Deni was accused of manipulating recent local council elections, which he allegedly manipulated to sweep his allies to victory.

The deployment came weeks after reports emerged that the UAE and Egypt had begun recruiting and training thousands of Somali youths amid geopolitical power struggle with Qatar and Ethiopia. Somali authorities have not yet commented on whether the recruits will be used as proxies by the two foreign nations, whose renewed presence in Somalia irked other Somali partners.

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