MOGADISHU [SMN] – Somalia militia, Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ), has agreed to a ceasefire following talks brokered by the local business community, ending days of bloodshed in Galmudug federal state.
Regional state President Abdi Karie Qoorqoor told the media on Tuesday night that the group, seen as moderate and who had been government allies, agreed to leave Gur-el town following night-long talks.
“They will leave town tomorrow morning, reportedly heading north to an area called Godwiil,” Mr Qoorqoor said,
“The town is now under the control of pro-Galmudug forces, and the people who had fled town are now trickling back.”
It was unclear what offers the group agreed to or if there would be further negotiations.
The AWSJ was allied with government forces against al-Shabaab but fell out over power-sharing arrangements in the local federal administration.
However, Mr Qoorqoor vowed he defend the state “at any cost”, calling on any groups with grievances to present them through legal channels.
“I can only welcome concerns presented peacefully, not violence.”
The decision to lay down the arms could now allow the state to complete its pending election for two senate seats, allowing the country to focus on polls of 275 MPs in the Lower House.
Earlier, Somalia’s international partners raised concerns that the continual violence in the Galmudug State of Somalia could derail the country’s electoral calendar and security programmes.
In a joint statement on Tuesday, the UN, the African Union, the European Union and other partners warned the fighting was already raising a new humanitarian crisis and could derail other government programmes for the country.
“Not only is the conflict causing severe humanitarian suffering to the people of the area, but it is also distracting from the urgent priorities of completing the electoral process and countering al-Shabaab,” they said.
Heavy fighting erupted on Sunday morning between Galmudug State forces supported by Somali National Army (SNA) units and militias loyal to ASWJ, which left more than 120 people dead, according to Somalia government officials, most of whom were civilians.
The fighting, though, has an added danger of emboldening militant group al-Shabaab. Previously, ASWJ collaborated with government forces to chase al-Shabaab out of towns in Galmudug before they differed on government slots in local administrations.
Fighting ensued as Somali forces fought back to retake Gur-el, a strategic town in Galmudug conquered by the group early this month.
The new battle led to the death of Major Abdifatah Fayle, a commander in the elite American-trained Danab unit in Galmudug.
The moderate Islamist ASWJ group is led by Sheikh Shakir Ali Hassan, a cleric who convinced some SNA soldiers to desert and join the ranks of his militias. Relations with the authorities worsened after representatives were axed from a proposed unity local government, raising their agitation.
As a result, some of its leaders, including Sheikh Hassan went on a temporary exile.
The group, however, remerged earlier in October to reclaim its share in the election of federal parliamentarians in Galmudug State, capturing Guri-el town to assert its influence.
War emerged after talks between President Qoorqoor and the ASWJ group failed.
The UN humanitarian agency, OCHA, stated that over 100,000 people had been displaced and needed humanitarian assistance.
By midday, Galmudug Information Minister Ahmed Falagle told the media, “Our forces have overwhelmed the militias, and we are restoring the order.”
However, reports indicate that fighting still going on.