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'Dozens dead' in Somalia clan clashes

Monday June 10, 2024

WASHINGTON —  A deadly clash over the weekend between two clans in central Somalia has killed at least 50 people, residents and medical officials told VOA on Monday.

Another 155 people are said to have been injured in the clashes in the Galgudud province near Somalia’s border with Ethiopia.

The fighting between the Dir and Marihan clans erupted on Saturday in rural areas between Abudwaq and Herale towns over grazing land and watering points, said Feysal Abdullahi Kheyre, a commissioner and resident of Herale.

Witnesses who asked for anonymity for fear of reprisals said about 400 militiamen fought each other during the clashes, using anti-tank weapons and heavy machine guns mounted on pickup trucks.

“The reason behind the high casualties is the fact that the fighting took place in an open ground and that the clan militias are heavily armed,” said Muhidin Aden Wali, a commissioner and resident of Abudwaq.

Neither commissioner denied there were high casualty figures but said that they did not know specific numbers.

Following the clashes, the Somali government announced Sunday that it was forming a committee to find an immediate solution for tribal conflicts.

The Somali National News Agency (SONNA) said the committee consisted of five ministers appointed by president of Galmudug State, Ahmed Abdi.

“The purpose of this committee is to go to conflict areas in the cities [of Abu Dawaq and Harali] to end the bloody fighting there,” SONNA reported.

Witnesses said Monday units of Somali’s army were deployed in the area to prevent further clashes.

The clans have a recent history of fighting over pastoral land and water wells.

Revenge killings

According to residents and local elders, revenge killings and land disputes have been fueling inter-clan violence in Somalia for years, with some of the heaviest fighting taking place in Galgudud and Mudug.

“It was unfortunate fighting between brotherly and neighboring nomadic people and it is as it has always been, over land disputes, water and clan vendetta,” Abdullahi Sa’id Farah, a clan elder and resident of Abudwaq, told VOA.

“Our sons and husbands are those dying from both sides in the clan conflicts in central Somalia and this has had a painful impact on Somali mothers for many years,” said Irado Mohamed Igal, an activist in the region.

Regional officials accused militant group al-Shabab of sparking the renewed clan clashes.

“Al-Shabab continues to pit Somali clans against each other so that it would benefit by distracting the local governments and local people from their fight against al-Shabab,” a security adviser to the president of Galmudug state, Ahmed Shire Falagle, told VOA Somali by phone.

VOA could not independently verify the involvement of al-Shabab in this weekend’s clan violence.

The clashes add weight to the security tasks of Somalia's federal government, which is struggling to contain the threat posed by the militants.

On Saturday, al-Shabab militants attacked government forces in the central town of El-Dheer.

Al-Shabab, through its Telegram channel, said its forces overran two government military camps, a claim denied by the Somali government.

Residents and witnesses who spoke to VOA said at least 16 people were killed during the attack, which they said was repelled by the government soldiers aided by local clan militias.

VOA reporter Abdiwahid Isaq contributed this report from Galkayo in central Somalia.


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