Somalia: Jubaland security minister mobilises troops amid tension in Gedo
MOGADISHU, Somalia - A fierce fight between Jubaland troops and Somalia National Army [SNA] is looming in Gedo, as the two parties tussle for control of the region.
Viewed as a stronghold of Ahmed Madobe, the federal government on Tuesday seized two districts in Gedo, precipitating the current impasse.
Jubaland troops retreated from Beled-Hawo and Doloow on Tuesday, to "avoid war" with SNA soldiers, officials said after the seizure.
The two towns are strategic for both sides, thus the ongoing struggle to stamp authority in the chaotic Gedo region, local media said.
But in a rebuttal, Jubaland threatened to "fight back" against the encroachment of "our territory" on Friday, a move that has sparked tensions.
Ahmed Hussein, the Jubaland information minister, warned SNA forces about an impending battle, following the takeover of the two towns.
He said: "Our troops will respond to the naked aggression by FGS in Gedo. We have kept quiet for long and time to hit back is here."
The minister said FGS's actions are "unacceptable and should be met with equal forces" from the state's security team.
Janan's fightback in Gedo
But Abdirashid Janan, the Jubaland security, has been tasked to mobilize troops in readiness for unprecedented retaliation.
Janan escaped from detention last month and has been under the surveillance of the Somalia government since then.
Photos making rounds on social media show the powerful minister organizing troops at Balad-Hawo and Mandera near the Kenya-Somalia border.
The troops, sources said, are likely to launch an assault against SNA, a move that could further escalate tensions in the fragile region.
In an interview with BBC Somalia service, Janan said: "my detention was precipitated by my decision to reject the merger between Jubaland forces with SNA."
Since escaping from prison, Janan, who had visited Nairobi amid pressure to have him re-arrested, has been holed up in Balad-Hawo and Mandera, sources said.
FGS defends deployment of SNA in Gedo
Amidst tensions in Gedo, the FGS has defended the move to deploy troops to the region, much to the infuriation of Jubaland administration.
Over 700 Turkish-trained SNA contingent was deployed to Gedo, where they seized the two strategic towns from Jubaland troops.
Mohamed Abdi, the Information Minister, defended FGS troops' deployment to the region, arguing that "there is nothing absolutely wrong" with it.
He said: "They are just protecting Somalia borders. The region is within Somalia and that's part of the troops' work."
Janan is quite popular in Gedo, and the government has worked profusely to edge him out due to his radical views and close ties with Madobe.
Jubaland officials arrested in Mogadishu
The situation could further deteriorate following the arrest of two Jubaland official, who was seized at Mogadishu on Friday.
Hassan Isaaq, the Deputy Governor of Gedo and Ismael Qorrah, the district Commissioner of Bardere, had been invited in Mogadishu before their arrest, officials said.
No reason or explanation has been given for the action, but both officials have been critical of the federal government over its unceasing campaign against the Jubbaland administration.
Currently, the two officials are detained in Mogadishu and there have been calls to have them unconditionally released by the authorities.
The dramatic arrest comes just three months after Jubaland Vice President was also blocked from holding a meeting in Gedo by SNA troops.
Why the standoff is dangerous for Somalia
Struggling with the effects of civil war and Al-Shabaab menace for decades, Somalia's future is anchored in several peacekeeping troops from AU.
At least 22,000 troops are protecting the UN-backed federal government, but the current standoff in Gedo could directly have an impact in the mission
While FGS is enjoying Ethiopia's backup, the Jubaland administration mostly depends on Kenya for protection and business.
Both Kenya and Ethiopia have stationed troops in Jubaland, with the former guarding a huge portion of the troubled state.
Should the Jubaland and SNA forces lock horns, analysts warn, the two sides could be thrown into unprecedented limbo over the sides to take.
Also, the standoff could further allow penetration of Al-Shabaab militants, who could in the long-run destabilize the fragile nation further.