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Somali forces clash with UAE troops

Somalian soldiers are seen ahead of trainings held by Turkish Armed Forces at Turkish Military Training Centre in Mogadishu, Somalia on January 15, 2018 [Volkan Furuncu / Anadolu Agency]
Somalian soldiers are seen ahead of trainings held by Turkish Armed Forces at Turkish Military Training Centre in Mogadishu, Somalia on 15 January, 2018 [Volkan Furuncu / Anadolu Agency]

Somali forces clashed with residual troops from the United Arab Emirates at a military training centre in Mogadishu yesterday, Garowe Online has reported.

The fighting erupted after units of the Somali National Army (SNA) and their commanders tried to break into the former UAE-run centre, explained an anonymous source. The SNA soldiers were said to be trying to steal military equipment. A gun battle ensued leading to six fatalities on each side.

Somalia scrapped a UAE military training programme just under two weeks ago; it had been in place since 2014. The Defence Minister announced that the units which were being trained by the UAE troops will be added to the SNA.

The incident follows ongoing tensions between Somalia and the UAE over a tripartite port development project in Somaliland. Somalia strongly opposed it, and even passed a law to ban the UAE-funded project. Despite the opposition, the Dubai-based port company DP World is going ahead with its plans.

Earlier this month, Somalia’s security forces seized around $9.6 million from a private aircraft which had flown in from Abu Dhabi. The UAE said that the cash was needed to pay the salaries of Somali soldiers, but the government in Mogadishu believes that it was to be used to buy power in Somalia. Mediation talks between Somalia and the UAE took place last week, although the outcome has not been made public.

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Over the weekend, it was reported that Al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Somalia, Al-Shabaab, launched an attack on a Somali National Army base in Mogadishu. A short gun-battle resulted in the killing of one SNA soldier and a civilian caught in crossfire.

Al-Shabaab seeks to dislodge Somalia’s government and implement its own version of Islamic law across the country. A major counterterrorism sweep took place in Hamar-Jajab neighbourhood the morning after the attack.

US-based journalist and analyst Richard Miniter believes that Qatar is placing pressure on Somalia to reject UAE support. Furthermore, Qatar’s ally Turkey opened its largest overseas military base in Somalia last year. Around 200 Turkish soldiers are currently training the SNA to undertake the same tasks that the UAE aspired to do against Al-Shabaab.

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