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Abdulahi Mohamed Nur, a senior ASWJ official, told reporters that Mohamed Shuriyeh, spokesman of the group’s Mogadishu force, had been fired, but Shuriyeh came out to dismiss the statement.
“Abdulahi has no authority to make me quit from the position; ASWJ has its own governing body, legislative rules and procedures, it is not a personal thing,” he said.
The Sufi-led pro-government alliance has already seen disagreements in its central Somalia stronghold, with hundreds of fighters returning to their home base of Abudwak amid arguments over leadership positions and the distribution of weapons donated by Ethiopia.
Sheikh Mohamed Farah, an Islamic scholar in Mogadishu, told Somalia Report that the latest spat could weaken both ASWJ’s ambitions in the political process and its battle against al-Shabaab.
“The ASWJ split could go further into clan affiliation as the two main wings of the group belong to two main clans: Habargidir of the Hawiye clan in the central regions and Abgal clan of Hawiye, dominating the ASWJ’s Mogadishu wing; that would be a great misfortune,” he said.
“Although, militia from other clans are involved in ASWJ, the current split could lead to two separate ASWJ entities backed by the two main Hawiye clans," he added.
ASWJ in Mogadishu claims to be the founders of the militia, and says it has the right to represent the group politically in Somalia, but ASWJ in central Somalia oppose say their faction should be given higher priority.
The group, which is often accused of serving as a proxy for Ethiopia, has been key to holding off al-Shabaab in central Somalia and helping the government gain ground in the border region of Gedo. Al-Shabaab has already shown signs of trying to take advantage of disunity, launching attacks on ASWJ bases in central Somalia.