Civilians evacuate their homes over fears of fresh violence between pro-government and opposition forces in the capital after clashes that left three people dead.

Residents flee following renewed clashes between rival factions in the security forces, who have split in a dispute over an extension to the president's term in Hodan district of Mogadishu on April 27, 2021.
Residents flee following renewed clashes between rival factions in the security forces, who have split in a dispute over an extension to the president's term in Hodan district of Mogadishu on April 27, 2021. (Reuters)

Civilians caught between pro-government and opposition forces in the Somali capital have fled their homes as the heavily armed rivals reinforced their positions after clashes that left three dead.

Tensions remained high on Tuesday as civilians in some districts of capital Mogadishu began evacuating their homes, piling their belongings into rickshaws or donkey carts ahead of feared return to violence.

"This is a horrible situation Mogadishu is facing today. People are fleeing their houses because of this increased military tension", said Said Ali, a witness.

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What's sparked the current crisis? 

Mogadishu is witnessing its worst political violence in years after elections were delayed and the president extended his mandate despite warnings that doing so risked instability in the fragile country.

Months of talks backed by the United Nations failed to overcome the election impasse and the dispute turned violent on Sunday as forces loyal to the president traded gunfire with fighters allied to his political rivals.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on all parties to refrain from further violence while the United States, a key ally, warned of sanctions if negotiations for elections did not urgently resume.

Tensions had been rising in the capital since February when President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's term expired before elections were held, and street protests against his rule were broken up with gunfire.

Earlier this month the president, better known by his nickname Farmajo, signed a law extending his mandate by two years, further angering his political opponents who declared the measure unconstitutional.

Police said Monday that three people, two police officers and one opposition soldier, were killed in the skirmishes as the warring sides barricaded roads and guarded their territory with trucks mounted with machine guns.

'Fear for our lives'

Residents in Siigaale, a neighbourhood in southern Mogadishu, said opposition reinforcements arrived overnight and had taken up positions not far from government troops.

"We fear for our lives... We have decided to get out of here before it is too late," said Shamis Ahmed, a mother of five her abandoned her home.

Analysts have warned that the political crisis risks splintering Somalia's security forces along clan lines, and say soldiers from the national army have already been entering the capital to fight for their respective opposition leaders.

The fragile nation has not had an effective central government since the collapse of a military regime in 1991 led to decades of civil war and lawlessness fuelled by clan conflicts.

For more than a decade conflict has centred on militant insurgency by the Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab. 

Observers have warned the latest crisis distracts from the fight against the militants, who control swathes of Somali territory. 

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Source: AFP