Somali troops capture key town from al-Shabaab

2015-07-23 12:58
File: AFP

File: AFP

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Mogadishu - Somali and African Union troops have taken the south-western city of Baardheere, one of the last ones controlled by the Islamist group al-Shabaab in the Horn of Africa country, military sources and witnesses said on Thursday.

"We have complete control over Baardheere, and our forces are currently searching for explosives left behind by the terrorists," senior Somali military commander Abdi Ali said.

Ali said 20 insurgents and four Somali soldiers were killed in the fighting on Wednesday.

The troops entered the city with tanks, heavy weaponry and helicopters, witnesses said.

"The troops entered our town from different directions without encountering much resistance from al-Shabaab," witness Abdinasir Said said.

The loss of Baardheere (also known as Bardera) was deemed a big blow to al-Shabaab, which used the agricultural hub as an operational base and as a source of income by extracting taxes from its residents.

Suicide bombings

AU troops have been in Somalia since 2007 to help the government battle al-Shabaab. The AU contingent in Somalia (Amisom) currently numbers more than 20 000.

Al-Shabaab has been pushed out of nearly all major towns, and the Somali and AU troops have launched an offensive to dislodge it from rural areas it still controls in the south and centre of the country.

Information Minister Mohamed Abdi Hayir Mareye called on humanitarian agencies to help the government assist people fleeing the fighting, who are believed to number thousands.

Mareye reiterated a government offer of an amnesty for al-Shabaab members leaving the group.

He said the current offensive "is going very well and Somali government forces and Amisom are making advances, liberating town after town."

Security analyst Abdiwahab Hashi, however, said the eventual military defeat of al-Shabaab would not spell an end to the government's fight against the group.

"Al-Shabaab does not want to engage in a conventional war with AU and Somali troops, but has turned to hit-and-run attacks and ambushes ... so it can survive for a long time," Hashi said.

The Islamist group is also resorting to suicide bombings.

Such tactics "make the war against al-Shabaab very complicated", Hashi said.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  au  |  amisom  |  somalia  |  east africa

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