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Somalia’s election standoff intensifies, raising risk of political violence

“When the political elite are focused on each other, attention turns away from the battle against al-Shabab,” said Omar Mahmood, senior Somalia analyst at the International Crisis Group. “Security forces that might otherwise be directed towards al-Shabab instead are turning inwards, providing greater latitude for the group to operate.”

Somalia’s nearly year-long constitutional crisis escalated toward outright conflict Monday as the president attempted to sideline his main rival, the country’s prime minister, by suspending his powers, the Washington Post reports.

Critics of the president, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, say he is using unconstitutional means to stay in power well past his term’s end almost a year ago.

Analysts have warned that a protracted political crisis distracts from the growing threat of al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabab, which controls most of southern Somalia’s rural areas and launches regular attacks on Somali cities and in neighboring Kenya. The political standoff over a disputed election process veered into violence on the streets of Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, earlier this year.

Mohamed’s office did not respond to repeated requests for comment regarding the political impasse. In a statement, Mohamed said that the prime minister, Mohamed Hussein Roble, had acquired land fraudulently and that the purpose of suspending him was to allow for an investigation.

Roble’s office said he would not abide by Mohamed’s decree, calling it an “outrageous statement,” and said the deployment of soldiers to his office was a “failed attempt to militarily take over.”

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