Mystery surrounds the destruction of a vital water source and a water-carrying tanker in El Garas. As conflicting accounts emerge, uncertainty looms over who is truly responsible for this significant loss of essential infrastructure in a region where access to water is already a pressing concern.
El Garas, Galgaduud region, Galmudug, SOMALIA. By Dalmar:
Al-Shabaab often steals pumps of wells when they see that the government troops will capture the area. The Islamist group did that in several villages and districts during Phase I of government operations to liberate territories under al-Shabaab’s control, including, for example, Adan Yabal.
However, El Garas is a different story. It is a place where mainly the Duduble and Murusade clans live and where al-Shabaab historically enjoyed overwhelming support. It is doubtful that al-Shabaab would destroy the water wells of clans that extensively support the group. Al-Shabaab claims that a U.S. airstrike demolished the well along with a tanker that locals used for carrying water.
What did al-Shabaab say?
“The warplanes of the crusader government of the United States carried out barbaric attacks in El Garas district, damaging the district’s water well and a truck [tanker] belonging to the civilians, which at the time of the attack was near the water well. One of the workers sustained injuries,” said al-Shabaab-affiliated media. The extremists often use the term “crusaders” when referring to foreigners in Somalia.
The group also said that there was a drone attack which destroyed another well in a nearby village. “Also in Galgaduud, a drone belonging to the American crusaders hit a well in the village of Sabbah near El-Lahelay on the outskirts of El Garas district. The herdsmen were drinking, and no one was in the well when the bombardment occurred. Thanks to Allah, the loss was limited to the destruction of the well,” the group’s statement further said.
On the other side of the narrative, the Federal Government of Somalia’s Ministry of Defence has asserted that their operations, in collaboration with international partners, eliminated more than 30 al-Shabaab militants in El Garas. The Ministry maintained that these operations targeted four al-Shabaab positions, two near Wabho and two near El Garas.
Subsequently, the Somali National News Agency (SONNA) reported that al-Shabaab had detonated a water well in El Garas, leaving one resident wounded. SONNA indicated that the extremist group had rigged key sites with explosives before the Somali army and local forces drove them out. According to the government media outlet, military operations are still underway in the town and nearby villages.
History of lies
Amid these contradictory claims, it becomes increasingly challenging to discern the true events surrounding the destruction of the water well and the tanker.
This incident follows previous controversies in the nearby town of El-Lahelay, which did not add much to the government’s reliability. The Somali government initially claimed that al-Shabaab planted an improvised explosive device (IED) that killed several civilians – members of a single family. In contrast, al-Shabaab claimed that a U.S. airstrike had caused the death of six civilians. Apparently, both sides lied.
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) issued a statement which asserted that the U.S. soldiers were not present in the area during the operation and did not conduct any airstrikes in support of it. Instead, the press release said U.S. soldiers were responding to a request from the Somali government to medically evacuate civilians who sustained injuries during a government operation. The statement effectively convicted the government troops of causing the civilian casualties in El-Lahelay.
The mystery persists
We could not independently verify who is ultimately responsible for destroying the water source. The history of both sides of the conflict shows that both entities did not care to openly lie and disinform the public. The option of al-Shabaab demolishing the well with an IED can not be ruled out. However, it would not make much sense due to its close relation with the local clans.
Although the public should naturally lean towards trusting the “official” version of events presented by the state media, the government’s reliability has suffered so many blows recently that it would be a mistake to mindlessly follow what it has to say.