Today from Hiiraan Online:
Taking Somalia from Al-Shabab
The Africa Report
Friday, July 13, 2012
By Konye Obaji Ori
The African Union (AU) has moved closer in its attempt to help the Somali government regain control of the war torn country following another victory over the radical Islamist group, al-Shabab.
Although the international community had established a UN-backed government in Somalia, al-Shabab has limited the government to a few blocks in the capital city of Mogadishu while it controlled the majority of the Horn-of-Africa-nation.
But on Wednesday morning, Ethiopian troops, pro-government militias and the African Union force - which has US and European funding have helped the UN-backed interim government expand its control outside Mogadishu.
The AU force was boosted earlier this to nearly 18,000 soldiers before it seized a major Islamist militant training base this week.
The Somalia army said al-Shabab fighters withdrew without a fight.
According to experts, the capture of Lanta-Buro west of the capital Mogadishu by AU forces is a major setback for the al-Shabab.
In recent months, Al-Shabab has lost several key positions, including Afgoye near the capital, Baidoa in central Somalia and the southern town of Afmadow. The AU forces are now targeting the coastal town of Merka.
In the town of Baidoa, near the Ethiopian border, local residents told reporters that al-Shabab had been forcing young men and even boys to fight in a frantic attempt to strengthen their numbers.
This has, however, led to waves of defections. But the battle against al-Shabab remains complex and is far-from over.
Despite the successes made by the AU forces, there have been some futility. The once captured town of El Bur - a strategic al-Shabab training camp – was re-occupied by the militants after Ethiopian troops withdrew.
The balance of power in Somalia had shifted among a makeshift of rival clan warlords until al-Shabab became the dominant force. The interim government remained powerless and limited to a few blocks in Mogadishu.
However, the transitional period and the mandate of the UN-backed interim government come to an end by 20 August.
In the meantime, the AU says at the end of the mandate of the interim government it is prepared to assist Somalia elect a president.
Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991 paving way for lawlessness.
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