Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed who has died in Dubai aged 77 was born on 15 December 1934 and was one of the founders of the Somali Salvation Democratic Front, as well as the Puntland State of Somalia, where he served as the autonomous region’s first President. In 2004, he helped establish the Transitional Federal Government, which he led as President of Somalia from 2004 until 2008.
Ahmed was born in the city of Galkacyo, situated in the north-central Mudug region of Somalia. For his post-secondary education, he studied Law at the Somali National University in Mogadishu. Ahmed later moved abroad to pursue Military Studies. He obtained a degree in Military Topography from the Frunze War College in the former Soviet Union, and received additional military training in Italy.
Ahmed joined the Somali Army during the 1950s, and was promoted to the post of commander in 1960. As a soldier, he participated in the Somali-Ethiopian war of 1964 and was decorated for bravery. Between 1965 and 1968, Ahmed also served as Somalia’s military attaché to Moscow.
On October 15, 1969, while paying a visit to the northern town of Las Anod, Somalia’s then President Abdirashid Ali Shermarke was shot dead by one of his own bodyguards. His assassination was quickly followed by a military coup d’état on October 21, 1969 (the day after his funeral), in which the Somali Army seized power without encountering armed opposition — essentially a bloodless takeover. The putsch was spearheaded by Major General Mohamed Siad Barre, who at the time commanded the army. For refusing to support Barre’s seizure of power, Ahmed was imprisoned for several years by the new military regime.
In 1975, Ahmed was released from prison and appointed by Barre as the director of a governmental agency. He later commanded the Somali National Army’s (SNA) southern front in the Ogaden War against neighboring Ethiopia. For his efforts, Ahmed was again decorated for courage, but would remain a colonel throughout his military career.