Somalia Faces Violent Turn With Factions Seen in Security Ranks

The political crisis in Somalia is causing faultlines within its security ranks that could play into the hands of al Qaeda-linked militants looking to further destabilize the nation.

In the latest sign of a widening schism, some soldiers abandoned their posts in Middle Shabelle region on Sunday and went to the capital, Mogadishu, where they clashed with troops loyal to President Mohamed Abdullahi, also known as Farmajo. The violence came moments after two former presidents-turned-opposition leaders, Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, claimed that the national army had raided their homes in Mogadishu.

Tension has been brewing in the Horn of Africa nation since Farmajo signed a law earlier this month that extends his and the lawmakers’ mandates without an election -- by as long as two years. On the day lawmakers voted for the extension, a police commander was fired after he tried to stop the controversial parliamentary session from happening.

Main roads were closed and public transport limited following hours of gunfire ringing in Mogadishu on Sunday evening, police officer Yusuf Aden said by phone.

The current political crisis started after the nation failed to hold a scheduled vote in February, partly because of disagreements between the federal and regional governments on the electoral process. The U.S. and EU warned that extending the mandate risked reversing the gains made in returning Somalia to normalcy and are considering imposing sanctions and taking other actions against Somalia.

Somalia is struggling to rebuild after two decades of civil war and amid an insurgency by al Shabaab, the al Qaeda-linked militants, that the federal government is fighting with help from neighbor states, the U.S. and the European Union. The insurgents have vowed to disrupt elections and continue to stage attacks in Mogadishu and beyond.

As residents broke their fast on Sunday, more fighting was reported in Hodan District, central Mogadishu between forces aligned to the government and the opposition.

“My family had the fear in the last days that any minute there could be a fight between the two forces,” Muna Abdi, a mother of four, said by phone. “ It happened today. We’re moving to a safe place. The situation looks dangerous now.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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