Intermittent gunfire rocked the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Sunday as rival forces clashed following the breakdown of talks on elections.
Witnesses and residents said the fighting took place between federal government forces of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, and members of the Somali military who are aligning themselves with opposition leaders.
As residents started to break their Ramadan fast early in the evening, clashes erupted in the vicinity of Mogadishu’s K-4 junction. A witness who did not want to be named for security reasons said he saw government troops and rival forces exchange small arms fire as well as rocket propelled grenades.
Casualties are not yet known.
The federal government and opposition leaders have been at odds over an April 12 decision by the lower house of parliament to extend the mandate of the current federal government for another two years after elections talks collapsed.
The Somali president signed a resolution extending his mandate into law the following day.
The situation escalated late on Sunday after the former president of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, accused government forces of attacking his residence in north Mogadishu.
“It’s unfortunate that troops taking orders from [Farmajo] have attacked my residence,” Mohamud wrote on his Twitter account.
“I have warned him [Farmajo] previously and I repeat the risk of politicizing security. The responsibility of the consequence will be taken by Farmajo.”
The Somali government has denied the claim from the former president. Internal Security Minister Hassan Hundubey Jimale told state media that government troops have been providing protection to the former government for years.
“Since he left office in 2017, he was being protected by government forces because of the national respect he is being afforded; it’s impossible whatsoever that he was attacked; it didn’t happen,” Jimale said.
The European Union ambassador to Somalia, Nicolas Berlanga, appealed for maximum restraint.
“Highly concerned about the ongoing events in Mogadishu,” he tweeted.
Highly concerned about the ongoing events in Mogadishu. The general interest requests maximum restraint, preserve institutions that belong to all and dialogue. Violence is unacceptable. Those responsible will be held accountable.— Nicolas Berlanga (@NBerlangaEU) April 25, 2021
Earlier Sunday, protesters took to the streets in north Mogadishu condemning the term extension. Heavily armed soldiers were on patrol alongside the protesters as they shouted chants against Farmajo, witnesses said.
Abdulkadir Mohamed Abdulle contributed to this story.