“They came the village of Fadhigaradle at mid night and killed five men who belonged to the ASWJ militia,” said Sahal Qase, a resident of Fadhigaradle. “We think the ONLF are taking revenge on ASWJ because of conflicts between them,” he added. Sahal told Somalia Report that the ONLF usually cross the border late at night and attack villages in Galguduud province.
“We are aware of what ONLF are doing in our villages, they believe our forces are busy facing TFG and al-Shabaab, but we have enough power to fight against them as well,” said Hassan Abdi Olad, an ASWJ chairman in Abudwak. “We pray that Allah forgives our dead brothers and rewards them with His paradise. We will take revenge, just as they do, soon,” he added.
The ONLF are a nomadic ethnic Somali rebel group fighting for the independence of the Ogaden region of Ethiopia, while the ASWJ are supported by the Government of Ethiopia. In November, the ASWJ arrested 30 ONLF members and handed them over to the Ethiopian Government, an incident seen as the catalyst for today's attack.
ONLF militants were not available for comment, due to the lack of communications infrastructure in eastern Ethiopia.
The attack was not the only trial faced by ASWJ this week, which has been subjected to repeated assaults by al-Shabaab, in its quest to wrest control of Galguduud from the Sufi group. Hours after the ONLF attack, Shabaab militants launched an assault on Bulucle village in the Dhuusamareeb district of Galguduud, resulting in four killed and several others injured.
The ASWJ are now beset on both sides by al-Shabaab and ONLF forces. Furthermore, relations with the TFG, a critical source of arms and training for the Sufi milita, have soured in recent weeks.
The defeat of ASWJ, which has been critical in counterbalancing al-Shabaab's advance, would have dire consequences for the already precarious stability of Somalia.
Update - 10 ONLF Fighters Captured By ASWJ Near Border
At least 10 ONLF fighters were detained by ASWJ militia on Thursday night in Lasanod village in the Galgadud region, near the border of Somalia and Ethiopia, ASWJ officials told Somalia Report.
"Our troops captured 20 ONLF fighters. They were planning another attack but fortunately, our troops managed to capture them and we will take action against them. We will not kill them as they did to us, rather they will face trial," Ahmed Ilkacase, deputy mayor of Gur-El, told Somalia Report. "If ONLF believe they can enter the villages under our control and do whatever they want, our forces are always alert," he added.