Regional militia takes over Beletweyne, officials arrested

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The administration of Beletwyene, the headquarters of the Hiiraan region in Central Somalia, has been taken over by a regional militia following several months of a standoff between HirShabelle President Ali Gudlawe and the Hiiraan region.

Sources in the town have told MOL Col. Abdullahi Barre Elmi, a Somali National Army commander who was recently sacked, is leading the group calling itself the Hiiraan Salvation Army.  According to local witnesses, the group has taken over all major government institutions.

Col. Elmi was formerly the head of SNA in the Hiiraan region before being stripped of his duties amid allegations that the Colonel was against president Gudlawe.

Another former SNA commandant General Ali Huud who has been leading a rebel faction against the Gudlawe administration, is reportedly taking charge of the airport.
Some government officials were reportedly placed under house arrest as the rebel forces took control, sources added.

The developments come ahead of Senate and Lower House elections and could further escalate the political stalemate in an already fragile situation in the country’s youngest Federal Member State.

Sources privy to the developments tonight told MOL the militia’s moved in following statements by Gudlawe allies, including former HirShabelle President Ali Osoble and Hiiraan governor Yusuf Dabageed. “They claimed that they would bring Gudlawe to Beletwyene by force sparking anger from the Col. Elmi’s side,” a source said.

Col. Elmi said in a press conference the decision was taken to ‘save the region.’

“We cannot take the insult of those who say we will bring Gudlawe here by force. To the military, you should be part of this,” the former army man said.

President Gudlawe has faced stiff resistance from the Hiiraan region since his controversial election early this year. Many prominent members from the Hiiraan region contested Gudlawe’s election because it violated a powersharing agreement between Hiiraan and Lower Shabelle.

There was no immediate comment from the Federal Government on tonight’s developments.

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