Six people died when forces apparently loyal to Somalia’s Government of National Unity confronted fighters of Al-Shabaab Islamist movement at Sedeylow village, 30 km southeast of Baidoa town, the capital of Bay region in southwest of Mogadishu.
The violent clashes occurred just before midnight on Sunday and lasted into the early hours of Monday.
People in as far as Baidoa could hear gunfire from all sorts of weapons. Residents said they had seen two bodies of the dead, without giving their identities.
According to Hassan Moalim Ahmed alias Piccolo, the former government appointed Baidoa District Commissioner; his forces attacked the rural area and killed six Al-Shabaab fighters in a clash that lasted for an hour and half. “We are on our way to recapture Baidoa (town) from Al-Shabaab,” said former DC Hassan Piccolo.
The former DC’s claim was countered by Al-Shaaab’s Governor of Bay and Bakol regions, Sheikh Hassan Mohamed Ali alias Abu Ayman. He said that his forces killed four pro-government forces that he classified as Burcad (bandits) and that one of their fighters died in the action. “We lost a martyr,” said the governor.
“There is no way these bandits can match our forces because they enjoy no popular support and they are no even getting Ethiopian support,” said Sheikh Abu Ayman. “We seized uniforms, mobile phone sets and weapons,” claimed the sheikh.
Al-Shabaab fighters chased the former pro-government authority from Bay and Bakol regions in January when the Ethiopian troops withdrew from the area. The officials fled to El Barde district, close to the Ethiopian border. Since then, the officials of the former authority vowed to retake Bay and Bakol regions.
That this clash that has occurred just 30 km outside Baidoa, the former seat of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Parliament is a sign that the pro-government forces are gathering strength.
“Our forces are supported by followers of Ahlu Sunna wal-Jamea (a moderate sect whose followers are in conflict with radical Islamists of Al-Shabaab and Islamic Party in various regions),” stated Hassan Piccolo through a phone call.