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Al-Shabaab spokesman denies the group is in Puntland

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Spokesman says the group supports the fighting, but is not involved
  • But, Ali Mohamoud Rage Dhere adds, "we rejoice at it"

(CNN) -- A spokesman for the militant group Al-Shabaab denied Thursday that it has been involved in recent fighting in northeastern Somalia's semiautonomous region of Puntland, but said the group supports it.

"The fighting was between local Muslims and the Puntland intelligence security forces and its authorities, which are slaves to Ethiopia, and we rejoice at it," Ali Mohamoud Rage Dhere told reporters in a conference call from Mogadishu.

His denial came a day after the leader of the militants who had fought in Puntland, Sheikh Mohamed Saiid Atom, said they were members of Al-Shabaab.