MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – Ahlusunna Waljama’a militias took control of the town of Guriel in central Somalia on Friday, hours after government troops had withdrawn amid fears raised that the Sufi group may sweep back to power in the restive region.
Militants entered government buildings in the town and returned to cheering crowds at Guriel’s streets, residents say.
It came a day after the group had taken the village of Bohol in fierce gunfight with troops loyal to the federal government and Galmudug state. The clashes, which subsided on Thursday evening, left at least 12 people dead and more than 20 others wounded.
The group’s fighters seized a number of military vehicles in the gun battle and drove government troops out of the small village after a ferocious battle that lasted for multiple hours.
A precarious calm returned to the village on Friday, but there were military movements made by the opposing forces and residents raised fear that fighting may again break out in the area.
There were reports that the Sufi fighters also entered the town of Mataban in Hiran region, shortly after retaking Guriel.
Somalia’s government on Friday sent nearly 400 Turkish-trained special police officers from Mogadishu to the town of Dhusamareb, the seat of power for Galmudug states. Military vehicles rushing with reinforcements were on their way from the regional capital to Guriel, hours after its fall came to public attention.
Politicians from the region, including the leader of Wadajir opposition party Abdirahman Abdishakur and parliamentarian Mahad Salad called for iron hand against those against Galmudug regional government, referring to the Sufi fighters.
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