Uneasy calm after five killed in Baidoa

Fve people were killed and over a dozen injured on Monday in fighting between rival factions in the Somali town of Baidoa, 240 km northwest of the capital, Mogadishu, local sources told IRIN.

The fighting between rival factions of the Rahanweyn Resistance Army (RRA), which controls much of Bay and Bakol regions in southwestern Somalia, erupted "at around 4:00 a.m. [local time] this morning [Monday]," a local journalist said.

Forces loyal to Hasan Muhammad Nur Shatigudud, former RRA chairman, and Shaykh Adan Madobe, former first deputy chairman, who are currently ministers of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) of Somalia, launched an attack on the town, which is controlled by forces loyal to Muhammad Ibrahim Habsade, a member of parliament.

Baidoa is one of the towns to which the TFG wants to relocate on a temporary basis until Mogadishu is secured. The Shatigudud/Madobe alliance supports the interim government's position, while Habsade is opposed to it.

"The fighting in Baidoa is another manifestation of a widening rift within members of the TFI [Transitional Federal Institutions]," a regional analyst told IRIN.

A local businessman said that the town was "quiet and calm but very tense. The fighting has stopped at 8:30 a.m., and there is no shooting," he said.

Businesses shut down, "with very little movement of people in the town," he continued. "People are staying indoors and are waiting to see what happens next."

He said that Habsade's forces had repulsed the Shatigudud/Madobe militias and "captured three technicals [battlewagons]. Habsade is still in control," he added.

There had been some looting in the town, but it was not widespread. "One warehouse belonging to a businessman considered to be one of Shatigudud's supporters was looted," the businessman said.

Meanwhile, both sides were reported to be regrouping and reinforcing their positions. The Shatigudud/Madobe group are said to be regrouping and reorganizing at Eil Doon village, some 25 km north of Baidoa.

Meanwhile, Habsade's forces are reported to be consolidating their hold inside the town and mobilising for further clashes, the journalist told IRIN. He said there were also reports that Habsade was expecting reinforcements from allied groups in Mogadishu. "They [Habsade group] are talking of taking the fighting to Shatigadud/Madobe militia," he said.