Fighting in Somalia’s Galmudug state between the Somali army and its former ally, the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a militia, has killed 120 people over the past three days, a senior ASWJ (Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a) official said on Monday.
Analysts and residents have expressed fears that the fighting is derailing the former allies from their common effort to defeat the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab insurgency.
“At least 120 people died and 600 were injured from both sides,” Hassan Yare from ASWJ told Reuters news agency on Monday, adding his group intended to fight until their “last man died.”
During the three days of battle, 16 government soldiers were killed and 45 were injured, according to Ahmed Shire Falagle, Galmudug state’s communications minister. He didn’t say how many people were killed on the opposite side, but he said the armed group had been trapped and that government troops aimed to “destroy them in the coming hours.”
The skirmishes began on Saturday and lasted till Monday in Guriceel, the second-largest district in the central state. According to the United Nations, the conflict has displaced at least 100,000 people.
In the war against Al Shabaab, the ASWJ, a group of moderate Sufi Muslims, has been at the front.
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According to the ASWJ, the federal administration has failed to put a stop to the al Shabaab conflict, and security in Galmudug state is deteriorating. The government claims that ASWJ is operating without its permission, something the armed organization has not refuted.
Fighting between the two organizations erupted in February 2020, when soldiers stormed a residence where ASWJ officials had convened, killing many persons.
Federal soldiers launched a “preemptive strike” on ASWJ earlier this month. The ASWJ fought back, taking Guriceel, and were welcomed by the locals.
Ahmed Moalim Fiqi, the Galmudug state security minister, resigned earlier this month, accusing federal officials of ignoring his requests not to strike ASWJ.