SNA troops kill four Al-Shabaab militants in southern Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Elite troops from Somali National Army [SNA] killed four suspected Al-Shabaab militants, officials said, in the latest operation at the militants' stronghold in Lower Shebelle.
Acting with a tip from members of the public, the troops descended on the militants in the vicinity Bariire town, killing them on the spot before they unleashed on the public, SNA officials said.
Intelligence reports indicate that the four militants were planning to execute a hit and run attack on Saturday before they encountered heavily armed troops from SNA's Danab forces. They refused to surrender before opening brief gunfire, officials added.
Lower Shebelle region is the worst hit with Al-Shabaab's unscrupulous activities, recording the highest cases targeting security forces and civilians, data from US military shows.
Saturday victory against the militants came just a day after the SNA troops in support from the US military, conducted an operation in Buulo Fuuay town within Lower Shebelle, killing two militants on spot.
Brig. Gen. Miguel Castellanos, deputy director of operations, U.S. Africa Command, said Friday's attack against Al-Shabaab shielded SNA troops from "obvious" fight back.
"This latest airstrike supported our partners in pushing back against al-Shabaab and enhancing security in Somalia,” he said. “Our partners know they can rely on us and the unique support we offer.”
In a bid to educate residents against Al-Shabaab's frequent distorted information, Somalia's information department insisted that the forces are keen to "prevent civilian casualties" in a campaign to get rid of militants.
"This contrasts sharply the indiscriminate killings of civilians by the militants in Somalia," added a statement from the department, in solidarity with SNA soldiers, who are set to fully assume security assignments next year.
So far, frequent US airstrikes have killed 29 Al-Shabaab militants especially in central and southern Somalia, officials said. But the number of dead militants is higher from ground combats, which has been witnessed in most parts of the country.
Unlike in the previous onslaught against them, Al-Shabaab is yet to confirm the incident. The group usually carries out coordinated hit and run attacks against SNA and AU forces in Somalia.
Through IEDs, the Al-Shabaab have also often raided public businesses in major towns, killing unarmed innocent civilians. The latest came last week in Mogadishu where four people were killed in a suicide attack at a busy restaurant near Parliament, officials said.
Some intelligence reports also indicated that the group is financially impaired, leading to internal squabbles among top commanders. They also lost Janaale town to SNA troops a fortnight ago, further exposing their dwindling fortunes.
The Somali National Army [SNA] is preparing to take over security responsibilities next year fully upon the exit of the African Union Mission in Somalia [AMISOM], who has been in charge for almost a decade.
Already, AMISOM's first batch comprising of 1,000 troops is expected to leave by the end of March this year. The mission has close to 22,000 troops mainly picked from among East Africa nations.
Towns that have been seized by SNA and AMISOM troops have been handed back to the public, which is entrusted with the formation of a new administration, Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheire said last week.
Al-Shabaab has been fighting the fragile UN-backed Somalia government since 2008 with the sole aim of establishing a parallel administration in the country. Somalia has been without a functional government since 1991 after the ouster of dictator Siad Barre.