A weekend operation by Ugandan peacekeepers under AMISOM flushed al-Shabaab militants out of their main coastal stronghold.
By Taddeo Bwambale & Steven Candia
A weekend operation by Ugandan peacekeepers under AMISOM flushed al-Shabaab militants out of their main stronghold in the coastal town of Barawe.
Armoured infantry vehicles made their way into Barawe, which lies about 220km South East of Mogadishu, alongside heavily armed elite AMISOM forces.
Barawe is one of al-Shabaab’s strategic towns captured under Operation Indian Ocean, a joint operation by AMISOM and Somali forces to finally remove the militants from all regions.
The operation started at the beginning of September in Sector One of Banadir and Lower Shabelle regions under Ugandan forces.
“Barawe was the most al- Shabaab-infested region in Somalia, and its recovery means that the region under our control is now free from the militants, Maj. Deo Akiiki, the Uganda AMISOM contingent spokesperson, told New Vision yesterday.
The al-Shabaab’s flow of arms, ammunition, explosives and foreign fighters to Somalia was cut off by the capture of the coastal town after two days of fighting.
For the first time in 23 years, Barawe is under the control of the Somali Federal Government. The militants are believed to have lost over $25m in charcoal trade in the port town.
The al-Shabaab’s main command post was captured by a specialised infantry on Monday, within three hours of battle with al-Shabaab snipers who were put out of action, Akiiki revealed.
“Our special forces conducted a tactical operation without air or maritime support. We put down the al-Shabaab’s flag and emblem from their headquarters and are now in control,” he said.
Two Ugandan peacekeepers injured during the mission are receiving treatment in Mogadishu and are in stable condition, the army said.
UPDF spokesperson Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, addressing the media yesterday, said the capture of Baraawe by the UPDF backed by Somalia forces had dealt a huge blow to the al-Shabaab.
“They are more or less finished,” Ankunda said at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala. The Monday capture of the coastal town, he said, meant the total liberation of Sector One.
Following the capture of Barawe and the total liberation of Sector One, which is under the control of Ugandan peacekeepers, Ankunda said the UPDF in Somalia will now focus on stability operations to consolidate their gains to ensure that the al-Shabaab do not regain territory.
Pushed out of Sector One, which also covers Mogadishu, Al-Shabaab militants suffered another blow when Kenyan peacekeepers and Somali forces captured the town of Bula-Gaduud.
Located about 30km north of Kismayo, the town was a major gateway for al-Shabaab militia heading towards Bullo Xaaji and into the Lacta belt.
Garsoy village, 16km out of Tiyeglow town in Bakol region, was captured and fighting between AMISOM and the insurgents has been reported in the villages of Ceel-garas and Ceel-la-hel.
At least 10 al-Shabaab fighters have surrendered to Somali government forces in Bulo-burte district of the Hiran province.
Somalia’s prime minister, Abdiweli Shiekh Ahmed offered amnesty to the al-Shabaab members who surrender to government in 45 days.
The operation aims at wresting control of the towns from al-Shabaab fighters, in order to weaken their territory and widen the Somali government’s control of the war-torn country.
AMISOM and Somali forces also captured the port of Kadale up north of the Indian Ocean and Adale town in Middle Shebelle region from al-Shabaab fighters during the operation.
The operation has also been extended to Kurtunwaary and Sabulaale where the militants have been operating bases. The special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Somalia, Nicholas Kay, described the capture of Barawe as a “critical milestone” in the country’s path to peace and stability.
On September 1, US airstrikes targeted and killed al-Shabaab’s leader, Ahmed Abdi Godane, a spiritual leader of the militants linked to al-Qaeda.
AMISOM peacekeepers capture al-Shabaab stronghold