Saturday, March 26, 2011
Two thousand Somali troops trained in Kenya have now been deployed in two strategic areas, the El-wak district of Gedo region and Dhobley town in Lower Juba region. This has given a real uplift to the Transitional Federal Government in general and to its ongoing military operations. The forces are divided into four equal-sized brigades, making up two divisions. One division equipped with a substantial number of vehicles and mortars was deployed two weeks ago into El-wak town, in the area called Burache. It forced Al-Shabaab out of Burache and its surroundings after a fierce fight and set up an advanced camp at Bursar, forty kilometers to the east. Last week, to the irritation of the troops, they were pulled back to Burache, apparently in anticipation of another Al-Shabaab attack. In fact, a number of Al-Shabaab fighters in the region have defected to the TFG units in Burache.
The second division, similarly equipped with the same number of vehicles and mortars, were deployed to the strategic border town of Dhobley, two hundred eighty kilometers away from Kismayo on Sunday, March 20th. The government forces in the area have now agreed a common strategy and joint plans with pro-government militias led by Sheikh Ahmed Madobe, a former Hizbul Islam commander who rejected Al-Shabaab's takeover of Hizbul Islam last year.
Meanwhile, in Mogadishu TFG Forces have continued their advances against Al-Shabaab, taking further key positions in Bondhere, Hawlwadag and Hodan districts of the city after weakening extremist position by mortar and artillery fire. Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister Abdihakim Haji Faqi said this week that “the Somali forces have sworn that they will not stop operations until Al-Shabaab extremist elements are completely crushed in Somalia.” Prime Minister Muhammad Abdullahi Farmajo, returning from New York after attending a United Nations Security Council meeting on Somalia, declared that government troops, with the help of AU peace-keepers, would drive Al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu and from elsewhere. He said they would oust the Islamist group within 90 days, adding that the TFG armed forces were now mobilized and the operations would start soon. He accused Al-Shabaab of being responsible for the continuing chaos and unrest in the country and said that the government was determined to end this state of affairs. He also disclosed that additional troops from member states of the African Union for AMISOM were expected to be deployed to the country soon and called on the people to assist the government in its fight against Al-Shabaab. It is all clear testimony to the TFG's resolve and determination to clear Al-Shabaab out of Mogadishu, and following these victories, President Sharif paid a visit to the newly recovered areas of the city, and visited the front line in Bondhere where there had been heavy fighting. The President congratulated the Somali national army and the African Union peace-keeping force (AMISOM) for the steady progress being made in the ongoing fighting in the capital.
One of those who died in this fighting was Abdikadir Yusuf Aar alias Sheikh Qalbi, a senior Al-Shabaab officer from the Juba region. His death in clashes close to the former Defense Ministry in Mogadishu was confirmed by another senior Al-Shabaab commander in Lower Juba region. Sheikh Qalbi had served as an Al-Shabaab leader in both Juba and Gedo regions, and he had been a member of Al-Itihaad Al-Islamiya (AIAI) in Luq in the mid 1990s.
This week, a senior Al-Shabaab commander called upon all local and foreign Jihadists to join the new training camps which Al-Shabaab had opened in Lower Shebelle region: “We call upon all the youth to join voluntarily into the training camps we set up in the region”, said Sheikh Mohammed Abu Abdullah, the governor of Al-Shabaab's administration in Lower Shebelle, speaking in Merka district, 90kms south of Mogadishu. He said the camps would train new recruits to participate in the fighting in Mogadishu where TFG and AMISOM were defeating Al- Shabaab. One of main training camps is located in Laanta Buro village close to Afgoye town, nearly 40 kms. south of Mogadishu. Hundreds of young teenagers have been brought in from different regions, forcibly taken from their families, and Abu Abdullah told them: “You will be taught how to fight against the enemy, how to shoot”. These training camps do not only provide weapons' training. Al Qaeda members in Somalia also offer courses on assembling explosives and road side bombs.