Residents Begin to Flee, Offensive Imminent in Central Somalia Town


MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – Residents have begun to flee from their homes in the town of Guriel in central Somalia’s Galgadud region amid tense military build-up as government and regional troops plan to launch an offensive to retake key towns in the region from Ahlu Sunnah fighters.

Sufi fighters set up defense lines outside the town this week, days after the federal government airlifted hundreds of troops in the region in push to drive Ahlu Sunnah group from towns in Galmudug state it had taken following clashes with regional forces.

The group still argues it has returned not to disrupt regional government’s work but to fight the Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group Al-Shabaab, saying the government has failed to defeat the Islamist movement which has gained ground in recent attacks against Galmudug forces over the past weeks.

An offensive was imminent to retake Guriel, though residents rally behind the Sufi fighters, a local elder told BBC Somali service, adding that the government operation could exacerbate current tensions.

A group of youths from the towns of Dhusamareb and Guriel on Saturday urged Galmudug leader to stop mobilizing state’s resources for conflict and said residents were forced to flee from the town of Guriel due to fear of being caught in the fighting. Escalating tensions turned the town upside down, they added.

Galmudug security minister Ahmed Moalim Fiqi on Thursday said he had resigned after disagreement with regional president Ahmed Qoorqoor over approaches to end tensions with Ahlu Sunnah. Qoorqoor insisted on using armed force to solve the current dispute, he said.

Hundreds of the region’s Darwish forces staged mutiny on Friday, hours after Fiqi’s resignation and a regional minister told media the protest was over unpaid salaries and was not related to the current political standoff.

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