The United States says it will review its support for an elite unit of the Somali National Army following its participation in a battle against a former ally in the fight against al-Shabab extremists.
An official at the U.S. embassy in Mogadishu spoke to VOA’s Somali service following reports that U.S.-trained elite Somali forces known as Danab, or “lightning,” took part in this week’s fighting in the central Somali town of Guriel.
The fighting pits government troops and Galmudug regional forces against the militias of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a (ASWJ). The moderate Islamist group is a rival to al-Shabab, which the United States considers the major militant threat in the region.
A Danab commander, Major Abdilatif Ahmed Ali Fayfle, was among those killed in the fighting.
The U.S. official in Mogadishu, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the embassy is aware of the reports that Danab forces were involved in the fighting and of the death of the Danab commander.
The official said the support would be reviewed as a result of that involvement.
“The United States provides training and support coordination to Somali National Army Danab Brigade units to advance our shared objective of defeating al-Shabab,” said the official. “As a result of this incident, we will be reviewing the support we provide to ensure it is being used appropriately and consistent with U.S. policy and objectives.”
VOA Somali tried unsuccessfully to contact the commander of Somali national forces, General Odawaa Yusuf Rageh, who was in the Guriel area this week.
The fighting in Guriel, which started on Saturday, has claimed the lives of dozens of people, injured scores of others, and displaced about 100,000 Somalis, according to local officials and health workers.
ASWJ militias were ousted from the area in early 2020 following the formation of a new administration for Galmudug state. The group’s leaders fled the area at the time.
Earlier this month, the group suddenly remerged ahead of planned parliamentary elections, sparking the current armed conflict against the federal government and Galmudug forces.
The official said the U.S. extends condolences to the families and loved ones of all those affected.
“We call on all sides to cease military operations and engage in political dialogue towards peaceful resolution,” said the official.
The U.S. has been training and providing support to Danab since 2013. Danab, which is currently about 1,400 military personnel, has bases in southern and central Somalia. In addition to training the Danab soldiers, the U.S. has been carrying out airstrikes against al-Shabab militants in support of the Somali government.