MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – Fighting broke out inside an Ethiopian military base in central Somalia early on Sunday after a soldier carried out shooting rampage against his colleagues, local Somali officials said.
Ethiopian troops in Somalia had disarmed more than 500 colleagues of Tigrayan ethnicity with others been returned to Ethiopia after a military offensive swung into action in Tigray region under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s orders.
Fierce exchange of gunfire was heard inside a large military base in the town of Halgan in Somalia’s Hiran region early on Sunday, which is home to thousands of non-AMISOM Ethiopian troops.
Local Somali officials – who have working relationship with Ethiopian defense forces – have told Somaliguardian that an Ethiopian soldier opened fire in what seemed as a gun rampage against fellow troops before fierce exchange of gunfire – heard across the town and nearby villages – began.
“We heard gunshots inside Ethiopian base in Halgan, initially we thought Al-Shabaab was attacking troops,” said a local security official, “but we were later informed that it was a shooting spree involving a mutinying soldier and his colleagues.”
The official said casualties sustained by troops at the base following the attack were still unknown, but confirmed that the soldier who carried out the attack was killed.
Motive behind the shooting rampage is unclear and whether it is related to the war raging in Ethiopia’s Tigray region between local forces and federal troops that has killed thousands and sent tens of thousands of refugees to neighboring Sudan.
- Ethiopia pulls back dozens of Tigrayan AMISOM officers from Somalia
- Ethiopia disarms Tigrayan peacekeepers in Somalia
- Ethiopia begins troop withdrawal from Somalia
Ethiopia has more than 17,000 troops in south and central Somalia helping African Union and Somali troops battle Al-Qaeda-affiliated militant group Al-Shabaab, which controls large swathes of territory in the country.
After Abiy Ahmed had ordered large-scale offensive on Tigray region, Ethiopia pulled back dozens of Tigrayan officers from Somalia, triggering allegations that the government was biased against the ethnic group that ruled Ethiopia for decades before Abiy Ahmed assumed office in 2018.
As fighting grew more bitter inside Ethiopia and fears were raised it was close to a point of no-return, Ethiopian defense forces under African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia disarmed fellow Tigrayan soldiers and detained them inside various military bases across southern regions of the country.
Since the start of what Abiy Ahmed billed as a “law enforcement operation” in Tigray early last month, more than 6,000 Ethiopian troops have been pulled out from Somalia to reinforce allied forces fighting Tigrayan rebels in northern Ethiopia.
Both Ethiopian military and Somali army have not immediately commented on Sunday’s shooting rampage inside Halgan base, which often comes under attacks from militants, who besieged the town several years ago after they had been driven out from the town that connects between south and central Somalia.
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