Coronavirus live updates: What you need to know

View More

Al-Shabaab ambushes Somalia troops near the capital, several feared dead

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

AFGOYE, Somalia - Al-Shabaab militants on Wednesday ambushed the Somali National Army [SNA] troops near Afgoye town in Lower Shabelle region, preliminary reports indicate, in one of the raids that could be the worst in recent years in the Horn of Africa nation, which has been struggling with stability for decades now.

Reports indicate that over 18 soldiers were murdered in cold blood by the militants who control large swathes of rural central and southern Somalia, which has been battling with insurgency for many years. The region is predominantly controlled by militants who have refused to cede grounds to the SNA troops.

The soldiers are said to have been on regular patrols before they were ambushed by the militants, who stormed the area and besieged them, leading to a fierce gunfight that lasted for several hours. The SNA troops are said to have lost control in the confrontation after the Al-Shabaab overwhelmed them.

According to reports, Major Abdulle Ali Mire, who was the commander of the battalion, was also killed on the spot after a struggle with Al-Shabaab militants. Major Abdulle has been leading operations against the Al-Shabaab in the town with the assistance from the Danab Special Forces.

Sources say that the troops were traveling in two pick-ups when they were ambushed by the militants in the vicinity of Doonka and Bullalow a few kilometers from Afgoye town at around 5 pm local time on Wednesday. At the scene, bodies of at least 18 soldiers could be sighted according to eyewitnesses.

The number of attackers is said to have been many thus the inability of the soldiers to control them. They are said they have been waiting for the soldiers who have been conducting operations within the region since March in a bid to completely crush the militants, who have been creating havoc and mayhem in Somalia.

Not far away from the scene, the African Union Mission Forces have a base near Afgoye Bridge where they have been working hard to eliminate the militants, while the government forces have another base at the Mukayga area. The assault just happened around 7 kilometers from the two bases.

It remains unclear if the soldiers made any attempt to reach out to the colleague soldiers from nearby barracks for assistance at the time of the ambush. The Somali National Army has been conducting operations across the country with the assistance of the African Union Mission Forces and those from the US Africa Command.

This is the highest casualty against the SNA troops since the raid at El-Salini military base in Lower Shebelle early this year which left at least 25, government soldiers, dead. The army base was raided by the militants who stormed at the early morning hours, further raising questions about Somalia's ability to neutralize Al-Shabaab.

Coincidentally, the raid comes hours before reports about the sacking of Danab commander Major Ismael Abdimalik, who is said to have been relieved of his duties. The reports are yet to be confirmed by the Ministry of Defense of the Federal Government of Somalia, which is struggling to build a strong army.