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SNA troops, Jubaland regional forces clash near Somalia-Kenya border ahead of polls

Monday January 25, 2021

Photo grab of a captured Jubaland fighters

Mogadishu (HOL) - Intense fighting in a Somali town near the Kenyan border between Somali forces and Jubaland forces loyal to Abdirashid Janan on Monday resulted in the deaths of 11 people and the detention of nearly a hundred Jubaland militia fighters, according to Somalia's federal government.

Somalia's federal government has accused Kenya of arming and funding the rebels before allowing them to cross into the Somali town of Beled Hawo and launching an attack.

Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, a government spokesperson and senior media advisor to the Prime Minister, said that among the dead are nine civilians, a government soldier and his bodyguard. He added that the government forces successfully repelled the midnight attack and fully controlled the city, despite gun battles going well into the afternoon.

Somalia's information minister, Osman Dubbe, said that the five siblings were among the dead when a mortar landed on their home. He added that the sophisticated weaponry was proof that a well-armed source backed the militia.

"Ordinary militias don't have mortars and missiles," the minister said. "This is proof that Kenya is arming those rebels."

Dubbe says the arrests will contribute significantly to the security of the border town. He called on the remaining fighters to lay down their arms, warning that the federal government would step up its patrols along the porous border.

"We will not surrender. We will defend this country. Insurgents will not invade a single inch of the country. We have seized a lot of weapons. Investigations are underway to find out where they are going and who sent them," Dubbe said.

Jubaland's vice-president, Mohamud Sayid Adan, offered an alternative narrative, claiming that his regional forces were attacked by Turkish-trained SNA soldiers who were recently deployed to the region by Somalia's federal government.

Kenya has denied any involvement, and Kenyan Internal Security Minister Fred Matiangi described Monday's fighting as "internal to Somalia and has nothing to do with us (Kenya)," adding that no Kenyan soldiers crossed into Somalia.

Kenya's foreign affairs have released a statement where it raised concerns of the potential for widespread displacement.

"Kenya's primary concern is that the renewed fighting engenders large-scale displacement of civilians inside Somalia and increasingly generates large numbers of refugees and asylum seekers to Kenya, therefore aggravating the already dire humanitarian situation in Somalia and the refugee camps in Kenya," the statement said.

Somalia has said the attack was orchestrated by Abdirashid Hassan Abdinur Janan, a former Jubaland security minister wanted by Mogadishu for serious human rights violations. A UN report accused Janan of murder, torture, illegal renditions and unlawful detention between 2014 and 2015.

Janan was arrested on August 31, 2019, as he landed at a Mogadishu airport. He appeared at the Banadir Regional Court in Mogadishu on October 6 of that year and remained in detention until his high-profile jailbreak in late January 2020. His reappearance in Kismayo days later was confirmed by Jubaland President's Chief of Staff, Abshir Mohamed, who had announced that Janan "is safely back home in Kismayo."

It was well-known in diplomatic circles that Janan was being sheltered from justice in Nairobi, a belief echoed by Seif Magango, Amnesty International's Deputy Director for East Africa, who called on the Kenyan authorities to arrest the fugitive Janan.

"The Kenyan authorities must immediately arrest and hand him over to the Federal Government of Somalia, who should conduct his trial in a manner that that meets international fair trial standards, without any further delays."

Janan's presence in Mandera has angered local leaders who have demanded that the Kenyan government remove him.

"I don't know how our government is benefitting from protecting a wanted criminal. Let the criminal be arrested and handed over or be kicked out of Mandera town for peace to prevail," Mandera East MP Omar Maalim charged.

Maalim took his query to the Kenyan National Assembly in February.  The MP grilled the nation's defence ministry on why Janan was being harboured in his constituency and to "explain measures put in place by the State to mitigate security challenges posed by the presence of the fugitive minister."

The MP believes that Janan crossed over into Kenya with over 100 armed soldiers on January 30 with Kenyan security officials' assistance. Janan was thought to be staying at a rented house in Mandera, which is believed o be well-known by the KDF. The MP told Parliament that his constituents complained that they feel "under siege following the presence of this minister and his forces."

Relations between Somalia and Kenya are at a historic low. Somalia severed diplomatic ties with Kenya in mid-December, accusing its neighbour of meddling in its internal affairs. Mogadishu believes that Kenya is pressuring Jubaland's regional President to boycott the election process.

The gun battle between the Jubaland forces and Somalia's government complicates a sensitive political situation. As the federal elections' deadline is fast approaching, Jubaland and Puntland have refused to participate until certain conditions are met. Chief among them was the dismantling of the elections committee, which they perceive as being stacked with Farmaajo loyalists and removing federal troops from the Gedo region. Jubaland President Ahmed Islam, commonly known as Sheikh Madobe, is seen as being supported by Kenya, who views Jubaland as a buffer against Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants. Kenyan troops are deployed in the Lower and Middle Juba under the UN-backed AMISOM mission.


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