Residents of the Somali capital Mogadishu fled neighbourhoods on Tuesday fearing renewed clashes between rival factions in the security forces, who have split in a dispute over an extension to the president’s term.
Government forces also raided an independent radio station and confiscated equipment.
Forces loyal to the opposition hold parts of the city and the two sides clashed over the weekend, raising fears that al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgents could exploit a security vacuum as state forces turn on each other.
Earlier this month, Somalia’s lower house of parliament voted to extend President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed’s four-year term in office but the Senate rejected the move, provoking the crisis.
Many soldiers in Somalia’s armed forces owe their loyalties to clan militias which have often battled each other for power and resources.
The presidential term extension has also angered foreign donors, who have backed Mohamed’s government in an attempt to bring stability to a country that has been wracked by civil war since 1991.
Residents said they left some Mogadishu neighbourhoods, fearing fighting after armed forces moved in.
“This morning, we were surprised to see more well-armed pro-opposition troops have settled in this area of Siigaale, they told us to move,” said Abdullahi Mohamed, a local elder. Siigale is near Maka al Mukarama road that leads to the presidential palace.
Kaaha Ahmed, a mother of five, said they left Hodan district after pro-government forces arrived.
“Last night we saw a bigger movement of the Farmajo’s forces, closing in from every direction,” she said, referring to President Mohamed by his nickname.
“We did not want to be caught up in the anticipated battle.”
Also on Tuesday, Turkish-trained Haramcad (“Cheetah”) police forces stormed Mustaqbal Radio, a private outlet, taking equipment and harassing journalists, the station’s manager said.
“We request the forces to return our equipment and not mistreat us again,” Ahmed Isse Gutale, the manager of Mustaqbal Media, told Reuters.
Neither information ministry spokesman Ismail Mukhtar Omar nor police spokesman Sadik Ali answered calls or texts seeking comment.
Overnight, Reuters journalists saw large numbers of government troops deployed in strategic locations, including near the house of opposition presidential candidate Abdirahman Abdishakur, where clashes took place on Sunday, and in the Gashandhiga area, which is where the military is headquartered.
Meanwhile, some opposition forces moved from the Hodan district to Hawle Wadag district, according to Reuters reporters, a part of the city where hotels, businesses and schools can be found.
The political crisis distracts attention from the fight against the Islamist al Shabab insurgency, which has killed thousands of civilians in the region in the past 12 years.
African Union peacekeepers had clawed back control of the capital from the insurgency and international donors have been trying to develop Somalia’s fledgling institutions after more than two decades as a failed state.
Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Abdiqani Hassan; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Angus MacSwan