Somali Government Launches New Disarmament CampaignAugust 15, 2014 in Somalia
A new disarmament campaign, launched by the Somali government earlier this week, has already netted some 500 guns and has caused heaving fighting to break out in the capital city. On Friday, heavy fighting broke out in Mogadishu as Somali government troops and African Union (AU) forces launched a pre-dawn raid on a house belonging to a former warlord. According to police officer Capt. Mohammed Hussein, seven people were killed in the violence, including four civilians, two militia members and one soldier. Eight people were also wounded.
During the early morning hours on Friday, government troops, backed by the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) attempted to seize weapons from militia leader Ahmed Dai before the fighting erupted. A statement released by AMISOM indicated that the mission’s troops took part in a pre-dawn raid on Mr. Dai’s home in a “search operation…following a tip-off that there was an arms cache,” adding that the “militia was overpowered and 20 were arrested.” Mr. Dai, who was not arrested, confirmed that AMISOM forces had carried out a raid on his house noting however that if AMISOM is “…claiming the operation is aimed for disarmament, then I have got not weapons, except a few for self-defense purposes.” Mr. Dai’s home is based in the capital’s Madina district, a neighborhood located close to the heavily defended airport zone, which is also the headquarters of the 22,000-strong AU force.
Government security official Mohamed Yusuf confirmed the fighting, disclosing that militiamen confronted government forces and African troops as they were carrying out security operations in the capital city this morning. Eyewitnesses reported bursts of gunfire and heavy explosions before dawn, with some reports indicating that both sides fired rocket-propelled grenades. The fighting calmed by mid-morning.
Earlier this week, the Somali government launched a disarmament campaign aimed at attempting to reduce the number of weapons and bringing greater security to the capital city, which has seen a number of deadly attacks in recent months. After more than two decades of conflict, Somalia has become awash with guns, resulting in several politicians and local leaders commanding what are effectively private armies. While such forces are not connected to al-Shabaab, who is fighting to topple the internationally backed government, they nevertheless pose a significant threat to Somalia’s fragile security situation. Furthermore, while government officials fear that these weapons may fall into the hands of al-Qaeda-linked fighters, some Somalis believe that the latest campaign is aimed at disarming rivals of the country’s leadership as the country prepares itself for the proposed 2016 national elections.
Government officials disclosed Friday that during the first four days of security operations, some 500 guns were recovered.