At least 11 people were killed in Somalia’s city of Baidoa in clashes between security forces and supporters of a former al Shabaab leader who is seeking election as a regional president, a military officer and an elder said on Friday.
Authorities arrested Mukhtar Robow on Thursday, accusing him of bringing Islamist militants and weapons back to Baidoa, the capital of South West region where he is running for president.
Robow supporters angered by his arrest clashed with police backed by Ethiopian peacekeeping forces in Baidoa, said Hussein Aden, a military officer in the city.
Baidoa elder Saleh Isak accused the authorities of seeking to install its own candidate as president of South West, the first of Somalia’s seven semi-autonomous regions to hold presidential elections in the coming months.
“Yesterday, 10 people died and today they killed a lawmaker,” Isak told Reuters by telephone.
The elections are a critical juncture in a growing power struggle between the U.S.-backed central government and regions where al Shabaab militants retain a presence following a long civil war.
Aden gave a lower death toll of at least six killed, among them lawmaker Abdishakur Bule.
“He died in cross fire between armed protesters and police this morning. Tension is high and we do not know what to do,” Aden told Reuters.
Robow was a prominent al Shabaab leader and group spokesman before he publicly renounced violence and recognized federal authority in August 2017.
His spokesman said he was beaten by Ethiopian troops, part of an African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, in the course of his arrest.
Officials in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa were not immediately reachable for comment.