The arrest of Mukhtar Robow, a former Al-Shabaab commander and a presidential candidate for the South West region, on Thursday, December 13, in Baidoa triggered additional deadly clashes in the town on Friday, December 14. At least 11 people have been killed and another ten injured. The victims include security officials and Robow supporters as well as a lawmaker. Hundreds of people demonstrated Thursday and Friday to protest the arrest of their candidate. As protesters blocked roads, set tires on fire, and destroyed some public infrastructures, security forces used live ammunition to disperse the crowd. A heightened security presence has been reported in the town, with Ethiopian armored military vehicles patrolling the streets as of Friday afternoon (local time). Further violence and casualties are possible in the days leading up to the regional elections scheduled for Wednesday, December 19.
Tensions have been high in South West region as presidential elections have been postponed multiple times. Robow is a controversial candidate and his supporters have accused the Federal Government in Mogadishu of attempting prevent him from running for office. According to media reports, Robow was invited to Baidoa for a meeting at the regional presidential palace on December 13 and was immediately detained by Ethiopian soldiers after arriving in the city.
Individuals in Somalia, and particularly those in Bay region, are advised to monitor developments to the situation, remain vigilant for militant activity, and obey all instructions issued by the local authorities. The security environment in Somalia remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to travel.
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