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Fearing new bout of fighting, civilians flee homes in Somali capital

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Residents flee their homes in hotspots of fighting between government and opposition forces in Mogadishu, Somalia, on April 27, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Civilians caught in the middle of fighting between government forces and armed opposition militia in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu have started to flee their homes, as disagreements over President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s extension of his own term takes on increasingly violent forms.

Families in flashpoint neighborhoods in Mogadishu packed up their belongings and used rickshaws and donkey carts to move away on Tuesday.

Militia, reportedly defectors from the Somali army, left their bases in the southeastern region of Shabelle and entered the capital city in a show of opposition to Abdullahi Mohamed’s extension of his term.

They are professing allegiance to former presidents Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, both of them opponents of the incumbent.

Skirmishes with government forces killed two police officers and one opposition militia member, police announced on Monday.

The two sides have barricaded roads with trucks mounted with machine guns and are now reinforcing their positions.

The civilians in the hotspots fear renewed fighting.

“This is a horrible situation Mogadishu is facing today,” and people are leaving their homes “because of this increased military tension,” Said Ali, a witness, told AFP.

Residents in Siigaale, a neighborhood in southern Mogadishu, said opposition reinforcements had arrived overnight and had taken up positions not far from government troops.

“We fear for our lives… We have decided to get out of here before it is too late,” said Shamis Ahmed, a mother of five who abandoned her home.

Tensions have been increasing since February, when President Abdullahi Mohamed’s term expired before elections were held and he extended his own term by two years, drawing the wrath of the opposition.

Analysts have said that Somalia’s security forces could be further splintered along clan lines as a result of the political crisis in the capital city.

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