Relief SCENE:Drought
Al-Shabaab Diverts Truckloads of IDPs
Neither Al-Shabaab nor Police Want IDPs in Mogadishu, Arrests Made
Police Dept Cdr Ali Barre Hersi

More than 50 internally displaced families from Bay and Bakol regions were denied access into Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, by the al-Shabaab militant group, despite the insurgent's announcement yesterday that they would allow assistance for drought affected families.

Al-Shabaab fighters in Afgoi town, 32km northeast of Mogadishu, prevented three trucks carrying internally displaced people (IDPs) from traveling into the capital and instead diverted them to Lanta-Bur without explanation.

“Some us were terrified by the order assuming that we would be taken into military camp or arrested because of our travel to Mogadishu,” Mohamed Omer, an IDP told Somalia Report.

Some IDPs, like Mohamed, were able to flee as the militants were arguing amongst themselves during their voyage to Lanta-Bur.

Although reasons for the diversion are unknown, it is speculated that the militants wanted to create their own IDP camps as part of a propaganda campaign. Al-Shabaab arranged for Lanta-Bur, a former prison in the vicinity of Afgoi town, to serve as an IDP camp after it lifted the suspension on aid agencies yesterday. The militants did not reveal how the camp would be managed or from where the aid would come.

The al-Shabaab militia at the Afgoi checkpoint said that they would let the IDPs eventually go to government-held areas of Mogadishu, which they referred to as “areas of the Murintadin, those defected from Islam.”

IDPs Create Instability in Mogadishu

Meanwhile, Somalia’s TFG commanders in the Hamar-wayne district of the capital fear they are losing control of the area due to the large influx of IDPs from Bay and Bakol regions.

According to the Somali government, hundreds of new arrivals sought refuge in government buildings that once were used by Mohamed Siyad Barre's regime.

Mogadishu’s central department commander for Somali police, Ali Barre Hersi, (photo) told Somalia Report that he sent warnings to government leaders that his security forces are losing control of the area.

“The situation is very complicated as the security of the district seems to be out of our hands," said the police commander. “It is because hundreds of displaced families from Bay and Bakol regions have frequently reached here since last week. We fear them because they came from al-Shabaab controlled areas."

The commander says 16 new arrivals were detained at Hamar-wayne police station in the last 24 hours for possible connections with al-Shabaab insurgents.

“The arrested men are youths and should be investigated. After we finish, they will either be charged or released," said the commander.

He says more IDPs arriving in Mogadishu from rebel held areas quickly set up small kiosks in Hamar-Wayne, causing angst for police and intimidating locals.

“The district is becoming densely populated and local gangs in the area started immediately in taking mobile phones from the locals," one businessman told Somalia Report.