18 August 2009

Somalia: Military Apprehensions Increase in Central Somalia

Beletwein — Government forces in the central Hiran region advanced from the provincial capital of Beletwein towards the district of Bule Burte, local sources reported.

There were no indications of the size of the government forces convoy, but locals have grown apprehensive about the possible eruption of new battles as Bulo Burte is controlled by insurgents.

Somali government forces displaced insurgent fighters from Beletwein last month, following the assassination of the Horn of Africa country's security minister.

But much of Hiran region remains under the control of insurgents, namely Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam groups.

Galgadud developments

In Galgadud region, north of Hiran, militias loyal to the pro-government Islamist group Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jamee'a claim to have captured the town of Wabho.

The group's spokesman, Sheikh Abdullahi Abdirahman "Abu Qadi," told reporters Tuesday that Ahlu Sunnah fighters captured the town of Wabho in El Bur district, which was the scene of fighting in June where over 120 people were killed in a single-day battle. READ: 123 killed in central Somalia clashes: Human rights group

He stated that there was brief fighting inside Wabho and claimed that Ahlu Sunnah inflicted losses on the other side. He did not provide more details.

This claim could not be independently verified, but Galgadud region has been the scene of fierce clashes between Ahlu Sunnah and Al Shabaab factions since late 2008.

There are growing fears in many parts of south-central Somalia, as Somali government and allied forces, including Ahlu Sunnah, prepare for a new offensive against allied insurgent groups, Al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam.

Aside from Hiran and Galgadud regions, there are concerns of battles in Gedo region where Ahlu Sunnah fighters seized the trade town of Beled Hawo yesterday and the Al Shabaab spokesman in Kismayo, Sheikh Hassan Yakub, vowed that Al Shabaab will attack Beled Hawo.

Experts believe that renewed conflict in Somalia will worsen the humanitarian crisis in a Horn of Africa country that has been largely lawless since the outbreak of civil war 1991.

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