Monday, March 26, 2012
MOGADISHU, -- Ethiopian troops and allied local militia on Monday wrestled control of key strategic base in central Somalia from Al-Shabaab rebel fighters, government spokesman and residents said.
"The town of El Bur fell without much fight from Al-Shabaab militants who fled hours before our forces and those of our allies took over," Somali government spokesman Abdurrahman Omar Osman told Xinhua.
The small town of El Bur in central Somalia province of Galgaduud has been key command and control base for Al-Shabaab forces in the region for the past three years.
Residents said that most of the rebel fighters left El Bur before Ethiopian and pro-government militias of Ahlu Sunnah Waljama entered the town, 350 Km north of the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The town lies on a key hub of routes lading to a number of other towns in the region still controlled by Al-Shabaab fighters.
Analysts say the town of El Bur which has remained a key powerbase for the radical Islamists for the past few years and its loss represents a major setback for Al-Shabaab who has been under growing military pressure from Ethiopian and Kenyan troops as well as African Union peacekeepers backing Somali government forces in Mogadishu.
The militant fighters have already lost a number of other important towns in the south and center of the country as armies from neighboring countries and AU peacekeepers shrink the rebel- controlled territory in the south-center of Somalia as they seize more land from the group.
Last year Al-Shabaab was forced to abandon their bases in the capital Mogadishu after relentless military offensive by Somali government troops and AU peacekeepers.
The radical group has since lost a number of key areas in southern and central Somalia.
The militant commanders vowed to revert to guerilla tactics and have since their withdrawal from Mogadishu carried out a number of terror attacks against Somali government installations and AU peacekeepers but the local civilians bore the brunt of the causality.
The Somali government and many western countries designate the Somali group of Al-Shabaab which has recently announced it merged with al Qaida, as a terrorist entity and blacklisted its top leadership.