Somalia: SNA troops' clash with clan militia leaves several people dead
GALKAYO, Somalia - At least eight people died on Saturday in Galkayo, a town which borders both Puntland and Galmadug, in the latest clashes involving the Somali army and local militia, reports indicate, barely a week after a series of Al-Shabaab raids.
The US-trained Danab troops engaged in a fierce gunfight with the local tribal militia, lasting for close to five hours. During the deadly encounter, at least 18 people were critically injured and had to be rushed for treatment in a nearby hospital, witnesses said.
According to multiple sources, the fighting broke out when the elite forces arrested a renowned businessman within the town, but there was no immediate reason given over his incarceration. His arrest triggered the fighting, reports indicate.
Fighting among rival clans in common in the border town, which falls under Galmadug state in Somalia. While it's not clear why the troops arrested the businessman, it's however believed that he works closely with the Al-Shabaab militants.
For the last two weeks, the SNA troops have been carrying out operations across the country, mainly targeting suspected hideouts of the militants, particularly in Lower and Middle Shebelle regions according to Gen. Abdihamid Mohamed.
Last week, an operation executed about 75 kilometers east of Galkayo, resulted to the death of three militants and destruction of explosives, Gen. Abdimalik Mohamed said, adding that "we are cleaning the country for the sake of peace and stability".
Just a few weeks ago, at least five people died in an explosion that targeted Mudug Governor Muse Nur, who died on the spot within Galkayo town. The Al-Shabaab militants claimed responsibility without giving many details about the attack.
And in the neighboring Garowe, Nugaal Governor Abdisalan Hassan Hersi was killed by the militants in April, further necessitating the current crackdown against the Al-Qaida linked militants, who have caused havoc within and outside Somalia.
The Al-Shabaab has not released any statement with regard to the clashes but the involvement of local clan militia rules out links between the suspect and the Al-Shabaab. Galkayo is lately becoming a hotbed of terror activities according to senior government officials.
Besides the death of the two governors, a senior immigration official was also assassinated out of a mosque in the town last month, sparking a heated debate about the safety of residents, who are struggling to regain from years of Al-Shabaab reign.
SNA troops are supposed to take over from African Union Mission soldiers in 2021, and the impending transition has lead to increased activities targeting Al-Shabaab, who still control large swathes of rural southern and central Somalia.
According to the United Nations, at least 4,000 civilians have been killed by Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia, further diluting a persistent claim by the militants that they often target security forces only.
Clan militia is also another source of insecurity within the war-torn nation, which has never had a democratically elected government since independence. Most of the time, the country was under the reign of military leader Siad Barre who was ousted in 1991.
In recent weeks, the clan militia has leftover 80 people dead in parts of Southwest and Jubaland, but the situation has since been contained. The UN and other international partners have been calling for dialogue between FGS and federal states.