The United States says it will reconsider its support for an elite Somali National Army unit following its engagement with former counter-extremist ally Al-Shabab.
A spokesman for the US Embassy in Mogadishu spoke with the Voice of America Somali service following reports that US-trained elite Somali forces known as Danab, or “Lightning”, took part in hostilities this week in the central Somali city of Guriel.
The fighting has pitted government forces and regional Galmudug forces against the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) militias. The moderate Islamist group is a rival to Al-Shabab, which the United States views as the main military threat in the region.
The Danab commander, Major Abdilaif Ahmed Ali Fayfle, was among those killed in the fighting.
A US spokesman in Mogadishu, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the embassy was aware of reports that Danab’s forces were involved in the fighting and the death of Commander Danab.
The official said support will be renegotiated as a result of this participation.
“The United States is providing training and coordination support for the Somali National Army’s Danab Brigade units to achieve our common goal of defeating Al-Shabab,” the official said. “As a result of this incident, we will review the support provided to ensure that it is being used appropriately and in accordance with US policy and objectives.”
VOA Somalia unsuccessfully tried to contact the commander of the Somali national forces, General Odawa Yusuf Rageh, who was in the Guriel area this week.
Fighting in Guriel, which began on Saturday, claimed dozens of lives, injured and displaced some 100,000 Somalis, according to local authorities and health workers.
ASWJ militias were expelled from the area in early 2020 following the formation of the new administration of Galmudug state. At that time, the leaders of the group left the area.
Earlier this month, the group suddenly appeared ahead of the planned parliamentary elections, sparking the current armed conflict against the federal government and Galmudug forces.
The official said the US expresses condolences to the families and loved ones of all those affected.
“We call on all parties to stop hostilities and start a political dialogue with a view to a peaceful settlement,” the official said.
The United States has been teaching and supporting Danabu since 2013. Danab, which currently has about 1,400 troops, has bases in southern and central Somalia. In addition to training Danab soldiers, the United States is conducting airstrikes against Al-Shabab militants in support of the Somali government.