Tension is rising in the Lower Shabelle Region, in southern Somalia, as the Transitional National Government (TNG), and a faction opposed to it deploy forces in the region, sources in Mogadishu told IRIN.
The TNG confirmed to IRIN that it had deployed forces in the area around Balidogle airport, 110 km northwest of Mogadishu. The bulk of the TNG’s forces are reported to be in Wanle Weyne town, 90 km northwest of Mogadishu. “We have sent forces there for defensive purposes,” said Mahmud Muhammad Hayd, the TNG deputy defence minister. According to Hayd, the TNG forces will not launch attacks against anyone, but are there “to protect the area from enemy forces, both foreign and domestic”. Hayd said the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) “was being used by a foreign country as an instrument of division”. The TNG has also set up defensive positions in other regions in the south in anticipation of a push to capture some southern regions by “this foreign-inspired so-called opposition”, he said.
The RRA, which controls Bay and Bakol regions in southwestern Somalia, has previously admitted attacking TNG positions in the Wanle Weyne area. Shaykh Adan Muhammad Nur, deputy chairman of the RRA, told IRIN that the RRA carried out the attack on Wanle Weyne on 27 May, where at least 19 people were killed. He said the RRA would persevere with its fight until “we remove the TNG and its supporters from all Digil and Mirifle lands”.
Muhammad Ali Adan Qalinle, the RRA governor of Baidoa, 240 km northwest of Mogadishu, told IRIN that their forces were stationed where they had been before the TNG sent in its forces. “We have not moved, but they have, and the two forces are so close in some areas that they can see each other,” Qalinle said. Qalinle dismissed the TNG accusation that there were foreign forces alongside the RRA as “fabrication”. “There are no foreign forces with us, and we don’t need them,” he said.