Somalia's president fires top army commander after SNA base attack
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia National Army [SNA] deputy commander has been sacked following an Al-Shabaab raid at El-Salini military base, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo announced, in a decision that could create ripples within the military.
Brigadier General Mohamed Ali Barise was relieved of his duties over the deaths of 24 soldiers in Southwest Somalia, where Al-Shabaab conducted a twin attack, state agency SONNA reported.
The dismissal is the highest in as many months, in a country struggling to form a formidable army to counter-terrorism and smuggling in the Horn of Africa.
The state-run media said: "The president has sacked Deputy army chief Mohamed Ali Barise following the Al-Shabaab attack that leftover 24 SNA soldiers dead in El-Salini military base."
The dismissal of the SNA commander comes as FGS faces growing criticism against the troops it deployed in the Gedo region near Kenyan border in what the opposition described an "invasion" in a peaceful territory under Jubaland state.
The commander, who has been closely working with army chief General Yusuf Rageh Odawaa, was promoted and appointed to the position only five months ago, the state media added.
Restructuring in SNA has been a continuous process, as the country source for competent individuals to guide the young army which does not have much capacity to keep Al-Shabaab on toes.
Gen. Rageh, 33, took up the Chief of Staff post last August when Barise was promoted to deputize him in changes effected by President Farmajo to the surprise of army chiefs.
Al-Shabaab militants ran over El-Salini military base on Wednesday morning killing over 20 SNA soldiers, in an attack that has been described as "lethal" by various security sources.
During the raid, the militants made away with sophisticated artilleries and ammunition, although they also suffered at least 13 casualties, military sources said.
Simultaneously, the militants also raided Qoryoley town, 60 kilometers West of Mogadishu, although they were repulsed by locally-mobilized forces with the help of AMISOM troops, police said.
On their website, the Al-Shabaab claimed that at least 70 SNA troops died at El-Salini, the second attack in five months, although that state has dismissed the figures as "exaggeration".
But in a letter dispatched to the media, Gen. Mohamed Ali Barise has denounced claims that he was sacked, arguing that he has abandoned the forces a day before the attack.
"Reports that I was sacked are baseless and untrue," he said in the letter. "I had quit the forces on Feb. 18 over political interference in the disciplined forces."
His assertions are in total contrast to what the state media had reported, a move that could cause confusion within the young Somali National Army.
Reports of political interference within the army and police are synonymous throughout the regime of President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo, who took over in 2017.
Opposition chiefs led by Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a former president, gave ultimatums to the FGS to "stop misusing security forces" when they visited Villa Somalia in November last year.
But Farmajo has often refuted the reports, accusing his opponents of "creating fictitious tensions" out of a non-existing situation.