MOGADISHU, Somalia [SMN] – Somali National Army (SNA) and Galmudug regional forces retook Guriel town in central Somalia from a paramilitary group Saturday following a fierce gunfight, army officials said.
SNA officers told Radio Mogadishu that the allied forces have concluded the security operations in the town after flushing out Ahlu Sunna Waljama’a (ASWJ), a moderate Islamic group based in the central region, which had occupied the town for barely a month.
“Local administration and the Police have fully taken over the security responsibilities in the town,” the State-owned radio said.
Witnesses said local residents are now back to the streets after intense fighting subsided.
“The joint forces stormed the town, sparking a fierce exchange of gunfire that lasted several hours early today. There were some casualties since it was heavy fighting,” said a local resident who declined to be named.
The SNA officials said the offensive began at dawn after the paramilitary group fired several rounds of mortar shells which landed at the positions occupied by the allied forces Friday.
The latest move comes after the United Nations humanitarian agency said Friday that more than 100,000 people have fled Guriel town in Galmudug state due to high tensions and potential conflict between the local forces and ASWJ.
According to the UN, the displaced people include about 1,005 unaccompanied minors and 2,009 persons with disabilities and health-related complications.