Hussein Hassan Dhaqane
Wednesday January 18, 2023
WASHINGTON/BELEDWEYNE — The Somali government reported on Monday that government forces have captured two towns previously controlled by militant group al-Shabab in the central Galmudug State.Harardhere is a key coastal town and a former pirate hub. It was the biggest and most strategic town in Galmudug that was still in the hands of al-Shabab until Monday.
Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur told VOA Somali that government forces and local fighters seized Harardhere and Galcad after the militants fled without a fight.
“Today, it’s a big day for the Somali people, it’s a victory for the Somalis,” Nur said. “We have succeeded in taking control of Galcad and Harardhere districts.”
He said Somali government forces were leading the operation to seize both towns with support from regional and local fighters.
Nur said Harardhere is largely empty and accused al-Shabab of “displacing” the civilians from the town before government troops arrived. Business places are closed down, he said.
He said the government will work on returning the residents to the town.
The capture of Galcad, about 375 kilometers north of Mogadishu, and Harardhere indicates the government-led offensive against al-Shabab in central Somalia is progressing.
The government has reported killing hundreds of militants and seizing dozens of localities in neighboring Hirshabelle state since the military operations were launched in August.
The government has also reported shutting down hundreds of bank and mobile money accounts allegedly linked with al-Shabab in an effort to curtail the group’s revenue generation activities.
Al-Shabab – known for imposing a harsh, punitive brand of Islam in the areas it controls -- has fought back with suicide bombings and retaliatory attacks. An explosion from a suicide car bomb hit a building housing a security officer in Halgan village, Hiran region on Monday. a police official told VOA Somali.
Colonel Hassan Kaafi Mohamed Ibrahim, a deputy police commander in Hiran region confirmed that the explosion killed Jamal Ahmed Jama, a captain with the local security forces.
Jama was a government officer who was also involved in the local force mobilization against al-Shabab, reports say.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the suicide car bombing in Halgan, 260 kilometers north of Mogadishu.
The group also said it has inflicted “heavy losses” through other recent suicide bombings.
Al-Shabab was behind three explosions in Hiran region’s Bulobarde and Jalalaqsi towns on Saturday, killing 13 people and wounding over 50 other people, according to local officials.
On January 4, more than 20 people, a majority of them civilians, were killed in two explosions from vehicle-borne explosive devices in Mahaas town, in the eastern part of the Hiran region.