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Somali security forces arrest former minister in raid

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali security forces have arrested a former minister and outspoken government critic after clashing with his bodyguards during an overnight raid on his home, the security ministry said on Monday.

Abdirahman Abdishakur was a candidate in a February election won by President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed whose United Nations-backed government faces growing pressure over its failure to put an end to an Islamist militant insurgency.

Abdishakur was arrested for treason, a spokesman for the Internal Security Ministry Abdiasis Ali told reporters at a news conference, without giving more details.

He also declined to comment on reports that five bodyguards were killed and that Abdishakur had been lightly injured during the raid.

“The former minister was legally arrested by decree from the attorney general and internal security minister. He was accused of treason. His guards fought the security forces,” he said.

A policeman and a local elder told Reuters earlier that five bodyguards were killed during the raid. The elder, Abdullahi Ali, also said Abdishakur had been injured on the arm by a stray bullet.

At the same news conference on Monday, attorney general Ahmed Ali Dahir described Abdishakur’s house as a hub for the opposition and a gathering point for people “who want to collapse the government.”

“We also warn those who meet at hotels,” he added. Many Somali officials including lawmakers live in fortified hotels for the security they offer.

Before Sunday’s raid Dahir had accused two other lawmakers of treason, prompting Abdishakur to post an angry response on Facebook.

“Let lawmakers be strangled, let their immunity be removed: This is a hopeless attack which portrays despair.”

The raid drew condemnation from other politicians.

“What the government is doing is against Islam and healthy politics,” lawmaker Mahad Salad told Reuters. “We condemn the government’s immoral act. We also order for the release of the ex-minister.”

The presidential election in February was praised by Western aid donors as a modest step forward from the previous election but the insurgency is striking with ever larger and more deadly attacks in the capital and major towns.

More than 500 people were killed in twin bomb blasts in Mogadishu in October. Last week a suicide bomber killed at least 18 people at a Mogadishu police academy.

The government is also struggling under political infighting and a very weak central state. Reuters reported last week that the United States is suspending food and fuel aid for most of Somalia’s armed forces over corruption concerns, a blow to the military as African peacekeepers start to withdraw this month.

Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by Clement Uwiringiyimana and Maggie Fick; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky