Al-Shabaab commander surrenders in Somalia's army


MOGADISHU, Somalia - A senior Al-Shabaab commander within the fragile Lower Shabelle region has surrendered to the federal government of Somalia, state media reported, in what was termed as "tremendous gain" in the war against the Al-Qaeda-linked group just moments after Somali forces started a second phase of operations against the militants.

Abdi Hassan Hulbale surrendered on Wednesday in the Lower Shabelle region, especially in Janale town, and was received by the Somali National Army [SNA] commanders. According to the military, the 40-year-old man has been a member of the terror group for the last decade thus the importance of getting hold of him.

"Abdi Hassan Hulbale, one of Al-Shabaab terrorists' senior leaders in Lower Shabelle region has surrendered to Somali National Army in Janale town, on Wednesday," state media confirmed. "The 40-year-old man has been a member of the terror group for 9 years."

His defection comes at the time the group is suffering losses across the country following a coordinated crackdown being spearheaded by the SNA, the US Africa Command, the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS], and several local militias.

On Sunday, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who launched the second phase of operations against Al-Shabaab at the recently liberated Adan Yabal village, called upon Somali nationals to join the war, noting that "the military cannot win this war alone, neither the people, we need to be combined and joint effort".

During the first phase, the Somali National Army reported 3,000 deaths inflicted on the militants and 3,700 injuries but the defiant group, through spokesperson Ali Dheere, dismissed the report as "rumours" in a quick rebuttal. "They can't talk about victory yet they couldn't beat us in six months and that's why they are still in the field, " he said.

Earlier this week, Somalia and the international partners agreed on funding rehabilitation centers across the country for Al-Shabaab defectors. According to government policy, defectors are first rehabilitated before being integrated with members of society for security reasons.

Lower Shabelle has been the epicenter of the Al-Shabaab crackdown for the last seven months and the group has lost significant territories according to the outgoing US ambassador to Somalia Larry Andre. The ambassador lauded the progress made, adding that Washington was keenly monitoring the situation in the country.

Elsewhere, Puntland Defense Forces have carried out operations against the Daesh group in the mountains of the Bari region. The operation was carried out by the forces of the 7th division Onkod, which operates in Balidhidin District, and during the operation, there was a fight between the Puntland forces and ISIS.


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