| 20 April 2024, Saturday |

Somali opposition fighters cordon off parts of capital Mogadishu

Somali opposition fighters have taken up position in parts of the capital, Mogadishu, in protest against the president’s bid to extend his mandate.

Pro-opposition soldiers took to the streets of Mogadishu on Sunday alongside protesters demonstrating against the extension of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s four-year term.

Later, opposition supporters clashed with supporters of the president on the streets of the capital, residents said.

One witness told AFP on Monday that armed men riding vehicles mounted with machine guns were stationed in opposition strongholds while key roads in the capital were blocked.

“Both the Somali security forces and the pro-opposition fighters have taken positions along some key roads,” witness Abdullahi Mire reported.

“I saw several pickup trucks mounted with … weapons belonging to forces loyal to (former president) Hassan Sheik Mohamud positioned along the main road leading to Marinaya,” said Ali Hassan, who lives in the northern Kaaraan district.

Clashes broke out between opposition forces and troops loyal to President Mohamed, best known by his nickname Farmajo, after he extended his mandate for two years despite strong objections.

The clashes — mainly in the northern neighborhoods of Sanca and Marinaya and the busy KM4 crossroads in the center — began after dozens of opposition supporters marched in protest against Farmajo’s term extension in mid-April.

Gunshots could be heard in Mogadishu throughout Sunday as residents reported clashes between units of the security forces for and against Farmajo. The gunfire and sounds of heavier weapons thought to be mortars, continued into the evening.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, however.

Meanwhile, water and power have been cut and some of residents are trying to leave homes in tense neighborhoods.

“People are starting to flee from Bermudo area where the pro-opposition fighters have taken positions last night, the situation is tense and there can be an armed confrontation anytime,” one resident, Fadumo Ali, told AFP on Monday.

In related news, Mohamud accused his successor of orchestrating an attack by soldiers on his home on Sunday.

“It is very unfortunate that an army under the command of the former president attacked my residence,” Mohamud said, referring to Mohamed as “the former president.”

“I have already warned (about) and reiterated the dangers of politicizing security. Farmajo is responsible for the consequences,” he said.

Meanwhile, Farmajo’s term extension has put him on a collision course with not only the opposition forces, but also, foreign donors who support his government in the hope of bringing some stability to Somalia after three decades of chaos.

Analysts say Farmajo’s move could distract security forces from their internationally-backed fight against al-Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants in the Horn of Africa nation.