Soldiers in the Somali capital Mogadishu have now ended their protest over unpaid salaries. They had taken to the streets over the weekend and blocked off several roads leading to the residence of the country’s president as well as several transport routes leading out of the capital.
Local television footage showed dozens of troops blocking vehicles from the African Union peacekeeping force, preventing them from passing. Soldiers interviewed by local media said they had not received wages in over a year. According to the statements of some of the soldiers to local media, the troops blocking the roads in Mogadishu had recently been fighting against Al-Shabaab militants in the Shebelle region with the 27th Division as part of an offensive waged by the Somali National Army, African Union Forces and US African Command over the last few months. Other reports claimed that the soldiers had recently deserted their posts. LINK
Last year the Somali government – under pressure from international donors – began paying soldiers directly in order to prevent commanders from appropriating part of the soldiers’ salaries. Officials also discovered thousands of names of ‘ghost’ soldiers on the payrolls who either did not exist or were no longer in army service.
Also over the weekend, the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for one of two attacks that killed at least seven people.
In the first incident, two bombs planted in front of the home of a military official in the town of Wanlaweyn, 90km (56 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu, exploded late on Saturday, killing four people, including soldiers and civilians.
“First we heard a blast at the house. Guards and residents came to find out what caused the blast and then a second blast went off,” Mohamed Nur, a police officer, told Reuters news agency from Wanlaweyn on Sunday.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
In the second incident, three fighters in a car carried out a suicide bomb attack at a military checkpoint in Bacadweyn town in central Somalia’s Galmudug state on Sunday.
Soldiers shot at the vehicle after orders to stop were ignored but were unable to stop the vehicle.
Three soldiers died and two others were wounded, according to Major Abdullahi Ahmed, a military officer in the nearby town of Galkayo. LINK
Last month, the governor of the Mudug region in Somalia’s Puntland was killed along with three of his bodyguards in a suicide car bombing claimed by Al-Shabaab. The attack followed the killing of the governor of Puntland in March in similar circumstances. LINK
Al-Shabaab means The Youth in Arabic. It emerged in Somalia as the radical youth wing of the now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu in 2006 before being forced out by Ethiopian forces.
There are also reports of foreign fighters travelling to Somalia to fight with al-Shabaab, arriving from neighbouring countries as well as from the US and Europe. The group, which claims to be linked with Al Qaida, is believed to have between 7,000 and 9,000 fighters.
Al-Shabaab is reported as advocating the Saudi-inspired Wahhabi version of Islam, while most Somalis are Sufis, and the group has imposed a strict version of Sharia in areas under its control
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