Fighting intensifies in border town as troops launch counteroffensive
MOGADISHU, Somalia – Heavy shootings continue in the town of Beled-Hawo, on the Kenya-Somalia border, which was retaken by Jubaland state forces late at night after an attack.
The strategic region has been a battleground for combat between Jubaland forces and the Somali army over the past year, as the warring sides seek to gain full control.
The conflict escalated last year when Somalia’s federal government sent GorGor troops to the Gedo region, a move that angered the Jubaland administration under President Ahmed Madobe, leading to a series of retaliatory attacks.
For most of Monday morning, SNA troops and Jubaland forces were embroiled in an intense shootout that began around 1 a.m. local time as both sides attempt to fight for control from the strategic town, which is the key entrance to the Gedo region. .
In a statement, Somalia’s federal government said a Kenya-based “militia” group attempted to take control of Baled-Hawo on Sunday evening, but was subdued by government forces. Loyal troops, he added, managed to recover sophisticated weapons imported illegally in addition to driving the security forces out of Jubaland.
But videos taken from the town early Monday morning showed Jubaland security forces controlling several parts of the town as shootings continued from the background. The soldiers were heard shouting that “we are in control” as they fired in the air.
Preliminary reports indicate that at least five members of the same family have been killed as a result of the battle between the two sides. It is not known who shot the innocent civilians, but it could be collateral damage as the fighting has spread to various villages.
Jubaland Vice-President Mohamud Sayid Aden told the Somali service of the BBC that: “We are in full control of Balad-Hawa” after “we have defeated the forces flown from Mogadishu”. The fighting is said to be ongoing as the SNA maintains that it has taken control of the city.
The federal government and Jubaland already fought over control of the city in March last year. At the time, government forces had the upper hand, even as they accused the Kenya Defense Forces of aiding Jubaland troops in controlling the area.
Abdirashid Janan, the security minister of Jubaland is said to be leading the assault on SNA troops. The minister, who operated from Mandera despite reports to the contrary from Kenya, has often accused the federal government of an “illegal” takeover of Gedo.
The United States and the European Union are among the entities that have warned of fighting between the two sides, arguing it would give room for the resurgence of Al-Shabaab. Al-Shabaab still controls sections of Gedo that are under the KDF and Ethiopian troops.