Somalia’s Army Battles ASWJ for Control of Guriel in Third Day of Heavy Fighting

Guriel

MOGADISHU (Somaliguardian) – Somalia’s army bolstered by the forces of Galmudug regional state are battling Ahlu Sunnah fighters for control of the town in Guriel in Galgadud region in the third day of ferocious gunfight that has left dozens dead and more than 100 wounded.

Fighting erupted again in the town on Monday after it saw a lull in the fierce clashes on Sunday night. Both sides have exchanged heavy gunfire and there are reports of an intense shelling targeting an area believed to be still under control of the Sufi group in the north of Guriel.

Allied forces have retaken most of Guriel, including district headquarters and police station but the rival troops are still holding out in the northern edge of the town, from where they have launched a number of counterattacks since Saturday, killing a number of leading military figures and soldiers.

Government troops claim to have taken prisoners and a number of military vehicles used by ASWJ in the gun battle, saying the rival forces have been besieged in small quarters at the University of Guriel.

Authorities gave Ahlu Sunnah leadership and fighters two hours to withdraw from the time on Sunday and later begun striking the holdout area with mortar shells, blaming the other side for the resumption of clashes. District official earlier said ASWJ leader urged a temporary ceasefire in order for his fighters to be able to bury their dead, though the account could not be verified independently.

A number of commanders, including those of US-trained Danab special forces and Turkish-trained military and police units have been killed in the battle and a number of others wounded. More than 50 soldiers sustaining injuries were flown to army-controlled hospital in Mogadishu, with a number of others being treated at Central Hospital in the town of Dhusamareb.

Former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Galmudug former security minister Ahmed Moalim Fiqi called on both sides to stop the fighting and settle their differences through dialogue, raising fear that the current tensions could sap security forces from the fight against Al-Qaeda-aligned militant group Al-Shabaab which controls large swathes of territory in the restive region.

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