No less than 600 Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) terrorists have fled the Saudi-led strikes and Houthi menace in Yemen and relocated to northern Somalia, US officials revealed on Tuesday as reported by the Washington Free Beacon.
Ethiopia let the Somali government know about the migration according to the officials, with the terrorists thought to be in the northern and northwestern regions of Puntland and Somaliland.
Somalia in the past was a firm Al Qaeda stronghold, with news of the major influx of AQAP terrorists raising concerns it will sink further into instability.
The group of migrant terrorists are believed the include some of the 300 prisoners broken out of a Yemeni jail by Al Qaeda on April 2.
Those suspicions are strengthened by the fact that many of the boats carrying most of the 500 Yemenis fleeing the country daily set sail from Al Mukalla, the southern port where the prison break happened.
Amid the news of the AQAP exodus to Somalia, US Secretary of State John Kerry made a surprise visit to the capital city of Mogadishu on Tuesday, where US officials say Somali officials informed him of the new threat.
Nevertheless, Kerry in his statements did not make mention of the influx of AQAP terrorists.
"As everybody knows, more than 20 years ago, the United States was forced to pull back from this country,” Kerry said. "And now we’re returning in collaboration with our international community and with high hopes mixed, obviously, with ongoing concerns.”
While Kerry offered additional American support for increased counter-terrorism operations necessitated by the immigration of terrorists, he did not specify what that aid would consist of according to officials.
Reportedly US intelligence agencies are trying to gain more details about the AQAP influx, while the State Department is supposedly exploring policy options that can be taken in response.
Kerry's meeting in Somalia included a questionable move, as he did not include the president of the independent Somali state of Somaliland, which is the country's largest and most peaceful province.
One US official said the Somalis did not have a favorable impression of Kerry at the meeting, adding the secretary of state was described as "coming in like an animal on one leg – injured and on his way out."
The Washington Free Beacon noted that the new spread of AQAP contradicts US President Barack Obama's election campaign in 2012, when he claimed US efforts had led to a decline of Al Qaeda.
In Somalia Al Qaeda already has a strong presence, most notably via the affiliate terrorist group Al Shabaab, which conducted a ruthless attack on a shopping mall in Nairobi, Kenya in late 2013 that murdered 67 people.