Somalia: Baidoa tense amidst fears of possible militia attack

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
NAIROBI, 21 Jul 2005 (IRIN) - Tension rose on Wednesday in the southwestern Somali town of Baidoa amidst reports that a militia group was poised to attack the town, local leaders said.

The governor of Baidoa, Muhammad Ali Qalinle, said forces loyal to former Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA) chairman Hassan Muhammed Nur Shatigudud, and former RRA first deputy chairman Shaykh Adan Madobe, both ministers in the Somali transitional government, had been mobilised in an area 76 km west of the town.

"Our forces have been put on high alert to deal with any eventuality," Qalinle added.

The Somali transitional Minister of Information, Muhammad Abdi Hayir, told IRIN: "Our position is that the two sides should resolve their differences through dialogue and peaceful means."

A local businessman who requested anonymity told IRIN: "There is tension building up in the town. Many are preparing to leave if fighting breaks out again."

Baidoa was in late May the scene of fierce fighting between factions of the RRA, which controls much of the regions of Bay and Bakool in southwestern Somalia. The fighting killed some 12 people and wounded more than 20 others, a local source said at the time.

The town is currently under the control of forces loyal to Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade, a member of Somalia's Transitional Federal Parliament and a former deputy chairman of the RRA.

It is one of the towns to which the transitional government plans to relocate on a temporary basis until the capital, Mogadishu, is secured. The Shatigudud-Madobe alliance supports the interim government's position, while Habsade is opposed to it.

The conflict in Baidoa is rooted in a power struggle within the senior ranks of the RRA that resulted in a split in 2001. The town has changed hands several times since then.


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