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Somalia: Hundreds flee Balad-Hawo as tensions build up in Gedo over presence of SNA troops

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Hundreds of Balad-Hawo local residents have left their homes over brewing tensions between SNA - Somali National Army troops and Jubaland forces, multiple sources have confirmed, with some taking refuge in Kenya.

For the last two weeks, the tension between the two sides has been high in the border town following the deployment of hundreds of Turkish-trained Somali soldiers by FGS in Mogadishu, a move that irked Jubaland administration.

Jubaland and FGS authorities have stationed troops within the vicinity of the town, with each side threatening to unleash.

SNA troops seized Balad-Hawo and Dolow districts from Jubaland forces with ease, although Jubaland has since threatened retaliation over "naked aggression" in the Gedo region.

According to reports, there were fears of possible clashes between the two warring camps, forcing hundreds to flee to regions where their security is guaranteed.

Abdirashid Janan, the Jubaland security minister who is under surveillance from FGS after escaping from Mogadishu detention on January 28, is said to be mobilizing troops against SNA, further irking tensions in the region.

Women and children have since vacated parts of the region, with a number of them taking refuge in Mandera town, despite condemnation against Kenya over the alleged role in the standoff.

In an interview with Universal TV, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, said "SNA troops have an obligation to defend our borders. We may not have the capacity but we shall do our best."

He insisted that the deployment of the troops was "legal", arguing that the protection of the country's border is a "role" of the federal government.

Further, Farmajo said "Kenya has no business in Jubaland. It must stop frequent interference of our internal politics, this is unacceptable".

The FGS accused Kenya of harboring Janan in Nairobi, days after he escaped from detention in Mogadishu with the help of senior Somali government officials.

Janan is accused of "committing serious crimes" in Gedo and the FGS has since asked Interpol to help in re-arresting him, sending a similar letter to Kenyan authorities.

But Janan has blamed FGS for "political witch-hunt", arguing that that "my only crime was backing the re-election of President Ahmed Madobe" during the August 2019 polls.

Jubaland enjoys support from KDF troops, who control major parts of the Lower Juba region, serving under AMISOM, and the state's administration is critical in the fight against Al-Shabaab, Nairobi said.

Already, more SNA troops have been deployed along the Kenyan border in Balad-Hawo, with anticipation for a fight with Jubaland forces, reports indicate.

However, elders from the region have been holed up in mediation efforts to avert the brewing conflict in Gedo, although no deal is yet to be brokered, an official said.

Mr. Janan enjoys massive support in Gedo, something which was exhibited after his escape from detention, with hundreds thronging into streets to condemn FGS over his incarceration.

A section of leaders from Mandera had also urged Somalia to solve the crisis without necessarily dragging Kenya into the matter.

The standoff could pave way for penetration of Al-Shabaab into the already liberated regions, further derailing efforts to stabilize Somalia, some analysts warned.