Al-Shabaab gaining control over large pieces of territory in Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia-based Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Shabaab militants on Thursday seized several villages in Middle Shabelle, a region that has struggled to defuse the threat in as many years, marking the biggest victory for the militants who are keen to control the country.
For many months, security forces have been trying to consolidate the entire region which is said to be under Al-Shabaab, and the efforts have led to significant gains such as the liberation of key towns and the killing of notorious group leaders.
Reports indicate that the militants captured several villages in the outskirts of Jowhar, the regional administrative capital of Hirshabelle State, which is fighting against Al-Shabaab. The town is located close to 90 kilometers north of Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
Sources intimate that the AU and Somali troops stationed in the vicinity of the town did not fight back, and instead chose to retreat as they also prepare to launch an operation against the militants, who are in charge of large swathes of rural central and southern Somalia.
Early last week, the terrorists seized Mashallay near Qoryoley town in the Lower Shabelle region and are keen to fight up to Johwar, the town which is highly guarded by the security forces. The Al-Shabaab is keen to overthrow the fragile UN-backed Somalia administration.
An official within the Somali military told Garowe Online that the extremist group is now gaining control over large pieces of territory in southern Somalia, taking advantage of the US troops' pull-out.
Security forces have previously managed to contain the militants in the southern part of the country and the exit of the US Africa Command from the Horn of Africa nation could be a big blow to those fighting in the region. Close to 700 US soldiers left the country last week.
Al-Shabaab has continued to wreak havoc in East Africa but the multi-agency security forces have managed to bring sanity in several hot spots. The militants run their operations through heavy taxation of locals through Zakat and ransoms took from those they hold hostage.