In a rare public announcement, Somaliland’s National Intelligence Agency (NIA) said on Tuesday that it had detained 10 foreign nationals suspected of ties to terrorism. The agency did not provide any further details about the arrests or the suspects’ nationalities, but said that they were from Pakistan, Syria, and Morocco.
The arrest of the 10 individuals comes as Somaliland faces a number of security challenges, including the threat of terrorism from al-Shabab, a Somalia-based militant group affiliated with al-Qaeda which has been fighting in Las Anod against Somaliland military in the eastern conflict.
It is unclear if the detention of the 10 individuals is linked to any specific terror plot. However, the fact that the spy agency has made a public announcement about the arrests suggests that the agency may believe that the suspects pose a serious threat to Somaliland’s security.
Although not publicly announced, a new intel chief was recently appointed by President Muse Bihi Abdi and signs of major departure the agency’s secretive nature seem to be taking on a much more public persona including posting on social media. It is unclear if the change of posture is intended to foster transparancy or simple rebranding of the agency in its new chief’s image.
It is unclear whether the change in the agency’s posture is intended to foster transparency or simply rebrand the agency. However, the detention of the 10 individuals suggests that NIA is taking a more aggressive approach to combating terrorism albeit very publicly.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that the new intelligence chief has served with the US military overseas at various capacities. It is unclear how his previous expertise has prepared him to helm the spy agency at a time Somaliland is facing major security challenges and lapses in intelligence that failed to predict events in Las Anod and beyond. It is unclear if the new chief’s role is intended to shore up the armed forces in threat detection or establishment of new offensive and defensive capabilities.
The appointment of a new intelligence chief with experience in the US military could be a sign that Somaliland is seeking to strengthen its ties to the United States and other Western countries in order to better combat terrorism. However, it is still too early to say what impact the new chief and the K9 units will have on the spy agency or Somaliland’s security posture as a whole.