Desperate to earn money for their impoverished families, some Somali refugees have turned to fighting alongside the militants and tribal supporters of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) as they battle government forces in south Yemen, a tribal fighter has told GlobalPost.
“We buried a couple of Somalis over the last week. We can tell they were Somalis by their facial features. There are not many, but, there are some fighting alongside al-Qaeda in Abyan,” said Mohammed Abu Mansoor, a tribesman, who has been fighting for the government against AQAP-affiliated militants trying to gain control over the southern Abyan province.
While Yemen offer precious little for its 170,000 mainly Somali refugees, an increasing number of Somalis are making the perilous journey across the Gulf of Aden fleeing the war and drought, which are devastating their homeland.
Rumours of Somalis fighting for the highest bidder have been stubborn in Yemen. During the six-year war between government troops and the Houthi rebels in north Yemen, Somalis were reported in local media as having fought alongside the Houthis.
Sheikh Ali Mohammed Raage, spokesman for al-Shabab, the extremist al-Qaeda-linked Islamic group in Somalia, said al-Shabab has been sending forces to Yemen and receiving fighters in return because of its close links with the country.