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The 55-year-old from the Marehan clan, formerly chairman of the Juba Valley Alliance that controlled the southern port town of Kismayo, was detained while planning to meet an unnamed Ethiopian military commander in the district.
Ali Bashir, a close aide to Barre Hirale, confirmed the arrest.
“I was told that he was in a meeting a few hours before his detention, but found his cellphone was off,” he told Somalia Report. “We don’t know where is currently being kept.” Ali Bashir added that Ethiopians had invited Barre Hirale to the facility to discuss ongoing actions in Garbaharey, where pro-government forces have been battling militant Islamist group al-Shabaab. Barre Hirale was often invited to discuss military plans in Somali border regions, he said.
Ethiopia left Somalia in early 2009 after a two-year occupation that sparked the insurgency, but it has been training pro-government militia and its troops have regularly been accused of taking part in operations in Somalia’s border regions. Reliable sources told Somalia Report Barre Hirale was detained after a dispute about how Ethiopia handled its involvement in operations against al-Shabaab. He was reportedly angry over not being allowed to lead operations.
However, Ali Bashir said there had been no disagreements and expected Barre Hirale to be released later Tuesday.
Barre Hirale's militia in 2008 fought fierce battles with insurgents in Kismayo, but was ousted after local clans supported al-Shabaab. He has since been based in Dolow, mobilizing Marehan clan militias to counter attack al-Shabaab in the Gedo and Juba regions.
The operations have succeeded in clawing back key towns from al-Shabaab, who have resorted to hit-and-run attacks and mining roads to slow down the government advance.