Somali Islamist insurgents make gains as government and allies fall out

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Somali Islamists have captured a city within the semi-autonomous central state of Galmudug, residents mentioned, a part of a string of incursions underscoring the group’s gains amid divisions between the central government and its erstwhile allies within the area.

The gains – in cities freed from the al Shabaab insurgency for greater than a decade – are proof that the group with hyperlinks to al Qaeda is capitalizing on deepening political divisions in Somalia forward of long-delayed presidential elections scheduled for subsequent yr.

The group on Tuesday captured the city of Eldheere, 30 km (18 miles) south of Galmudug’s capital Dhusamareb. Al Shabaab fighters bombed the police station earlier than taking up the city, residents and an official from Galmudug state’s army advised Reuters.

“Last evening the (Galmudug state) forces left and al Shabaab captured the city,” elder Nur Hussein mentioned by cellphone from Eldheere city on Wednesday.

The Islamists additionally kidnapped a dealer and had been threatening a key regional street.

On Monday, al Shabaab fighters briefly took over the city of Mataban earlier than it was reoccupied by troops from Galmudug state, resident Ahmed Abdullahi advised Reuters by cellphone.

“I noticed masked al Shabaab fighters elevating flags and addressing the individuals within the centre of city,” he mentioned.

Al Shabaab has been combating in Somalia for years, in search of to topple the central government and rule primarily based by itself strict interpretation of Islamic regulation.

Major Farah Ahmed, a police officer in Galmudug, confirmed al Shabaab had taken Eldheere however mentioned the state had dispatched troops to dislodge them.

The incursions comply with infighting between the Somali government and its erstwhile allies, Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama’a (ASWJ), a Galmudug militia that was instrumental within the combat towards al Shabaab. ASWJ says the government has accepted too many hardline clerics into its fold.

In October, the 2 sides fought a lethal battle that claimed greater than 120 lives. Analysts concern the conflict is derailing the combat towards al Shabaab.

“This is an enormous menace to Galmudug’s cities like Dhusamareb,” mentioned Abdisalam Yusuf Guled, former deputy at Somalia’s nationwide intelligence service company, NISA.

Galmudug state didn’t have sufficient forces to combat al Shabaab, he added.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; modifying by Katharine Houreld and Giles Elgood)



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