Al-Shabaab accused of kidnapping civilians in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Al-Shabaab has reverted to the abduction of civilians as they continue to lose ground in the Horn of Africa nation, with the latest reports indicating that the team kidnapped about nine civilians, in what could trigger another operation by security forces in the country.
Multiple sources said the militants ambushed and carjacked innocent civilians within the Halgan District of the Hiiraan region, where the government troops have been conducting operations with the help of US Africa Command and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS].
Within the same region as well, the local militia has been instrumental in flushing out the militants, perhaps the reason behind the latest ambush by Al-Shabaab targeting civilians. Hundreds of civilians have taken arms against the group which is gradually losing dominance over the country.
Two mini caravans were targeted by the militants who are determined to make a point over the ongoing crackdown, witnesses said. The militants blocked the road near Dheenweyne and opened fire, forcing drivers to try to seek refuge at the banks of the Shabelle River.
"Last night, between Maghrib and Isha prayers, Al-Shabaab ambushed civilians coming from Halgan District to do business. They traveled in two vehicles, a Noha and a Homey, with roughly 20 passengers on board," a resident told the media in confidence due to the sensitivity of the matter.
"Al-Shabaab opened fire, and some individuals managed to leap out of the truck and flee, but they abducted the people who couldn't escape, mainly the elderly," explained the Dheenweyne local, while noting that the whereabouts of those abducted are still unknown.
After the incident, the Al-Shabaab militants seized the vehicle and dozens of passengers before crossing over the Shabelle River in Western Hiiraan. The group is active in Western parts of the troubled region where the government troops have been camping.
Last year, the group abducted at least 21 civilians and ended up slaughtering them in what is linked to local mobilization against the militants in Hiiraan, Galgaduud, and Bay regions.
The group has significantly lost strategic towns and has reverted to desperate measures which include abducting innocent people.