Somali Shabaab foreign fighters flee
Nairobi - Somalia's al-Qaeda allied Shabaab fighters are close to collapse, with large numbers fleeing the war-torn country for Yemen, the commander of the African Union forces in Mogadishu said on Thursday.
"We are looking at an implosion - al-Shabaab is most likely going to implode in the not so distant future," said Ugandan Major General Fred Mugisha.
"We have reports that in the last few days, close to 300 people, mainly foreign fighters, are streaming out of Somalia taking the direction of Yemen - these are signs of defeat," he told reporters.
Britain's security think tank, the Royal United Services Institution, estimates the total number of foreign fighters within the Shabaab to be around 200.
"A little more push and we will stabilise this country so that Somalis can live a better life," added Mugisha. "They are their weakest (sic), they are losing ground all the time."
Shabaab fighters fled Wednesday from their strategic base of Baidoa after truckloads of Ethiopian soldiers and pro-government Somali forces seized the town, the second major loss for the rebels in six months.
Baidoa was one of the Shabaab's main bases and its capture leaves the group's fighters in central Somalia increasingly isolated, with AU troops also chasing them out of the capital Mogadishu.
Although the insurgents still control large parts of southern Somalia, they face a land and air offensive by Kenyan forces there.
The hardline fighters vowed to avenge the loss, but Mugisha said the militia were on their last legs.
"You can see the hypocrisy on their side. Here they are inspiring these young children to turn themselves into bombs, but when the going gets tough then they are running away from Somalia," Mugisha said.
"I hope Somalis, the extremists and all those people who had been manipulated will now understand and get out of this madness."
Kenyan army spokesperson Major Emmanuel Chirchir said on Thursday six suspected foreign Shabaab fighters - believed to be from Kenya and Tanzania - had been arrested trying to enter Kenya.