Fresh fighting erupted in the central Somali town of Dhusomareb, days after peace talks between an armed Sufi militia and the government-backed regional state of Galmudug ended in failure, with the moderate Islamist group wrecked a deal by refusing accept a new power sharing offer.
Residents in Dhusomareb town reported street battles and explosions as the two sides pounded each other’s positions with and artillery fire and mortars in the largely populous town, raising fears of civilian casualties.
Local authorities said that four people have so far been confirmed killed in the ongoing clashes.
Despite negotiations, the Galkayo-based Galmudug state accused Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, a sufi militia based in Dhusomareb of resisting to sign a deal that would see their militia integrated into Galmudug forces and leaders given top positions.
“They are the ones who initiated the conflict, we are committed in pushing them out of the town.” said Mursal Sheikh Mohamed, a commander with the Sufi militia.
However, Galmudug state which said that its forces were making headways in the fighting said it aims to oust the rival forces from the town to restore law and order.
Hundreds of residents have fled from their homes, as witnesses reported chaotic scenes and bodies strewn along deserted streets in the town.
Somali government hasn’t yet commented on the ongoing fighting which analysts say further challenge the government’s efforts to extend its rule and open a second frontline against the government which is struggling to contain a deadly insurgency by the Al-Qaeda-linked group, Al-Shabab.
Ahlu-Sunna militia have seized both Dhusomareb and the nearby Guriel towns from Al-Shabab four years ago after deadly battles with the feared militant group which is fighting the Somali government and the African Unionforces protecting the weak government.
The militia has since defended both towns against repeated counter attack by Al-Shabab to recapture the two neighboring towns.