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After four explosions targeted Ethiopian and Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops as well as pro-government clan militias of Shabelle Valley Administration (SVA) in Beledweyne of Hiiran region over the last 24 hours, the allied forces launched a massive security operation and arrested at least 40 people who were accused of having relations with al-Shabaab militias which have been blamed for the attacks.
According to local residents, the allied forces on Thursday carried out investigations in the northern villages of the town where the explosions targeted the Ethiopian troops.
“They entered every single house and conducted thorough investigations. Most of the people they seized were youths and also there was a women who was accused of carrying out the explosions against Ethiopians,” Abdiwali Jim’ale, a resident in Beledeweyne, told Somalia Report.
The TFG officials in Hiran region said that they captured more than 30 people on Friday, while the others were caught on Thursday.
The chief commander of the TFG forces in Hiiraan region, Abdullahi Barre, stated that the operations are ongoing and that everyone will be given a fair trial.
“We shall enter all the houses in Beledweyne. We will also search business. We are telling the people to cool down because we are only looking for al-Shabaab terrorists,” he told Somalia Report.
“We are urging the people to help us to eradicate the terrorists from the town. If you hide today, then tomorrow they will bring problems for you,” Barre added.
The chairman of al-Shabaab in Hiiraan region, Sheikh Yussuf Ali Ugas, accused the TFG and the Ethiopian troops of creating problems for the people of Beledweyne since they entered the town three months ago.
“They removed the Islamic flag and changed it to a flag made by infidels. The mosques and the Madarasa (Qur’an schools) are all empty since people were denied access. The people were also not allowed to show off their Islamic symbols like the bead for men and wearing Hijab for women,” he told Somalia Report. Sheikh Yussuf accused the Ethiopian forces of carrying out revenge killings.
“They skinned the faces of some and killed others. They tied them each to a log and threw them in a river and then stoned them while they were still alive. They have killed elders, women, children, and even students. There are many cases of rape. The Christians and their slaves caused a lot of problems for our people, including looting every day they have been here,” Ugas told Somalia Report.
He vowed al-Shabaab would retake the city.
“We have already set a plan to hit the enemies badly, saving the people and that is why we left Beledweyne. Very soon you will see a free Beledweyne so we are calling for the people to give the Mujahideen support so that they can defeat the enemies,” Ugas said.
Ethiopian officials could not be reached for comment, but the chief commander of the TFG forces in Hiran denied the claims of Sheikh Ugas.
“The people of Somalia, the TFG and our Ethiopian friends are all working together. There are no problems and residents regularly inform on an al-Shabaab fighters in the town,” he told Somalia Report. “The situation of Beledweyne is very calm now. UN and TFG officials visited here and saw the reality. There are some al-Shabaab elements that are hiding in the town and throw grenades, but very soon we shall arrest them and create stability and peace in the region of Hiran,” said Commander Barre.
TFG, Ethiopia, SVA and the pro-government Sufi militias of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) captured the strategic town of Beledweyne in December of last year, with each group vying for control.