By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Fighting in Somalia's Galmudug state between the Somali army and its former ally, the Ahlu Sunnah Wal Jama'a militia, has killed 120 people over the past three days, a senior ASWJ official said on Monday.
Analysts and residents have expressed fears that the fighting is derailing the former allies from their common effort to defeat the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency.
"At least 120 people died and 600 were injured from both sides," Hassan Yare from ASWJ told Reuters on Monday, adding his group intended to fight until their "last man died."
Ahmed Shire Falagle, Galmudug state's information minister said 16 government soldiers were killed and 45 injured during the three days of fighting. He did not know how many casualties the other side had suffered, but said the armed group had been cornered and government forces hoped to "finish them in the coming hours."
The clashes erupted on Saturday and continued until Monday in the central state's second-largest district of Guriceel. The United Nations said in a statement the fighting has displaced at least 100,000 people.
ASWJ, a group of moderate Sufi Muslims, has been at the forefront in the fight against Al Shabaab.
ASWJ says the federal government has failed to end al Shabaab insurgency and that security is worsening in Galmudug state. The government accuses ASWJ of operating without its consent, a claim the armed group has not denied.
Fighting between the two groups broke out in February 2020, when several people were killed after soldiers attacked a house where ASWJ leaders had gathered.
Earlier this month, federal forces made what they called a preemptive attack on ASWJ https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/somali-militia-former-government-ally-captures-two-towns-federal-forces-2021-10-01. ASWJ fought back capturing Guriceel, where they were welcomed by residents.
Galmudug state security minister Ahmed Moalim Fiqi resigned earlier this month, accusing federal officials of refusing his calls not to attack ASWJ.
(Writing by Giulia Paravicini; editing by Katharine Houreld, Angus MacSwan and Richard Chang)