GAROWE (Somaliguardian) – A ceasefire brokered by traditional leaders is in jeopardy after fighting resumed in the commercial port city of Bosaso on Wednesday night, hours after it saw a precarious calm amid calls for peaceful concessions over simmering tensions in the town.
Clashes between troops loyal to Puntland President Saeed Deni and US-trained Puntland Security Forces (PSF) subsided in the early hours of Wednesday after authorities declared a ceasefire, but resumed overnight. Residents awoke to heavy exchange of gunfire and loud explosions from artillery and mortar bombardments.
Videos circulated online showed stray mortar bombs that had struck civilian homes. Some of the residents were asleep as mortar shells crashed through roofs and fell near their beds, in one of the scariest scenes of the ongoing infighting.
At least 20 people are said to have been killed, with more than 70 others wounded. Both authorities and PSF mutineers blamed each other for breaking the ceasefire agreed on Wednesday. In a statement, mutinous security force said authorities were not interested in restoring calm and continued attacks, but Puntland government noted that it was still ready to give a chance mediation efforts led by regional leaders.
Residents who still remained in the town have begun to flee on Thursday. A VOA Somali journalist described seeing wounded people across the streets of Bosaso and carcasses of livestock animals hit by stray bullets scattered around the streets.
PSF, whose commander Mohamud Osman Diano refused to hand over responsibilities after being dismissed by regional president, claimed “terrorist elements” within regional government were fanning the flames of war. However, authorities say they were committed to ensuring the supremacy of rule of law and would give time for the mutinous commander to leave his post.
In a statement, Somalia’s President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo said he was saddened by the loss of life, destruction of civilian property and wave of refugees unleashed by the fighting in Bosaso, calling for elders and intellectuals in the region to mediate an end to the tensions. Former regional presidents Abdirahman Farole and Abdiweli Gas as well as other officials called for calm and efforts to ease the military escalation.
The United States urged an immediate end to hostilities in Bosaso and a “return to dialogue to find a negotiated, peaceful resolution”. “Continued fighting will only inflict further harm on Bosaso and its people,” it added.
US Africa Command raised concern that Al-Shabaab and ISIS groups could capitalize on the infighting in Bosaso that has drawn PSF, Puntland’s “most capable counter-terrorism force”.
“Both Al-Shabaab and ISIS likely consider the PSF a substantial obstacle to gaining territory and revenue in Puntland and are likely monitoring the situation,” AFRICOM spokesperson Kelly Kahalan told VOA Somali. “We are concerned that these clashes will diminish the counter-terrorism capabilities and focus of the PSF and provide these terrorist organizations with an opening to exploit.”
Fighting erupted on Tuesday after regional troops stopped a military vehicle carrying PSF members, according to officials. But both sides blamed each other for starting the gunfight. Troops loyal to Saeed Deni had arrested two PSF members days earlier and mutineers later injured a gov’t soldier and detained him in retaliation.
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