Somalia: Al-Shabaab militants clash with Jubaland forces in Gedo

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KISMAYO, Somalia - At least three people died in the tension-prone Gedo on Wednesday after fierce clashes between Jubaland Regional Forces and the Al-Shabaab militants, reports indicate, in the fight that lasted for a couple of hours.

Five others were critically injured during the battle and have since been taken to hospitals, officials said, but the Al-Shabaab militants who were arrested are set to be presented to authorities for trial over war crimes in the Gedo region.

Officials said the fighting broke out when dozens of Al-Shabaab militants raided a Jubaland security base in El-Wak town near the Kenya-Somalia border, leading to a gunfight between the two sides, which lasted for a couple of hours.

The militants surrounded the base and started firing indiscriminately, but they were repulsed and finally subdued. The casualties were mainly Al-Shabaab militants but there were about three Jubaland soldiers who were critically injured.

A KDF soldier who spoke to Garowe Online in confidence since he's not allowed to speak on behalf of the team said the Kenyan troops responded immediately by giving JSF backup, a move that helped contain the attack.

"They had surrounded our partners [JSF] and were determined to unleash. Our team near El-Waq responded immediately and subdued the militants. There were casualties especially on their side," he said in a text.

Those injured, he added: "Are currently in our custody and undergoing treatment. It's just another failed attack on a friendly base. The Al-Shabaab is very much weakened and cannot facilitate an organized attack like in the previous outgoing."

Despite the confirmation of the attack, Jubaland Security Forces are yet to issue a statement, so as the Somali National Army [SNA] or even the African Union Mission in Somalia, which monitors the situation in Jubaland and other parts of the war-torn nation.

This is the third failed attack against Jubaland security forces in Gedo over the last three weeks, mainly waged by the Al-Shabaab militants who control large swathes of rural southern and central Somalia.

Last month, the militants tried to run over Qooqani military base which belongs to JSF, but they were overwhelmed by the KDF team which guards large sections of Gedo in Sector II of the AMISOM jurisdiction in Somalia.

A similar attempt on Dhobley military base for Jubaland forces was also thwarted after the regional forces called for reinforcement from the Kenyan troops, AMISOM has confirmed in a statement earlier this month.

On June 1, Brig. Paul Njema, the Sector II Commander, said the KDF team will work hard to protect Somalis from unending aggression from the militants, adding that the main task was to ensure the Al-Shabaab is crushed completely.

"Our main task is to protect civilians from these militants and this is what we're focused to do. They're degraded but much needs to be done to ensure that Jubaland is safe from these terrorists. A safer Jubaland means a safe Kenya," he told soldiers.

Last week, Kenya Defense Forces chief Gen. Robert Kibochi also returned to Somalia where he assured the troops of support. He visited various Forward Operating Bases among them Bilis Qooqani and Afmadow where KDF troops are stationed.

Intelligence reports recently indicated that the militants were moving to Kenya-Somalia border due to financial constraints and have since established a network which they use to implement their mafia-style taxation within Kenya, thus leading to heightened operations along the porous border.

Al-Shabaab has also been recording losses in battlefields across Somalia in recent weeks, forcing them to concentrate on the implantation of IEDs along supply routes in Somalia. They have killed a number of civilians and security forces using such tactics.

GAROWE ONLINE

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