Forces of the Federal Government of Somalia and the central state of Galmudug have announced the recovery of control of the city of Guri El, which had been in the hands of the Sufi militias of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ) since the beginning of the month, in the revival of a conflict that has gone virtually unnoticed in recent months due to the political crisis in the African country, and has already left more than 100,000 displaced people in the area.
According to multiple sources confirmed to the news portal Goobjoog, joint federal and state forces entered the city on Friday night. Fighting has been raging in the center and north of the town, located about 65 kilometers southwest of the state capital, Dhusamareb.
This afternoon, Somalia’s state-run SNTV announced on its Twitter account that the National Army and regional forces in Galmudug have concluded law enforcement operations in the town of Guri El.”
“The local administration and the police have fully assumed security responsibilities in the city,” added the information, which did not specify casualties.
For several years the state of Galmudug has been the stronghold of these militias, considered rivals of the terrorist organization Al Shabaab. Although the Somali government appeared to regain full control of the state from the ASWJ early last year, the group retaliated with the conquest of Guri El where it seized several institutional buildings and clashes that left a dozen dead in the town of Bohol.
The militias claim a certain political legitimacy. The organization’s leader, Mohamed Shakir, served as Galmudug’s prime minister following an agreement brokered by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development for East Africa (IGAD) in 2018, but his group had not engaged in combat for years. In fact, they agreed to cease their activity in Dhusamareb, which they abandoned in 2015, within the framework of talks to stabilize the state.
The United Nations Agency for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), warned on Thursday that 100,440 people had been displaced since Somali forces’ encirclement of the clan and were in need of humanitarian assistance. The situation has been exacerbated by the impending drought and water shortages facing the region.
Although the central government considers that this offensive was inevitable after the failure of talks with ASWJ, the former state security minister Ahmed Fiqi has strongly criticized the state president, Ahmed Qurqur, whom he accuses of forcing the situation for the benefit of the government, in order to destabilize the state and consolidate the permanence in the power of the country’s president, Mohamed Abdullahi alias ‘Farmajo’, who has been involved in territorial disputes for months.