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Somalia's Special Forces capture senior Al-Shabaab commander

By Staff reporter , Garowe Online

MOGADISHU, Somalia - A top Al-Shabaab commander was on Monday captured by a team of Special Forces from Somalia National Army [SNA], an official said, during the crackdown at Janaale town.

Buoyed by the presence of AMISOM troops and US forces, the Danab and Gorgor soldiers raided the agricultural town of Janaale, capturing it from the militants after a decade of control.

In an interview with SNA radio, Brig. General Mohamed Dirir said one Mohamud Yussuf Mansur was captured and will be interrogated to give further details on Al-Shabaab rampage in Lower Shebelle.

Mansur has been working with the explosive brigade of Amniyat and is linked to several attacks in southern Somalia, which has recorded the highest number of raids, he said.

"This is a great milestone for the Special Forces," said Gen. Dirir. "Capturing such a figure in Janaale is a manifestation that we are up to the task and it has just started now."

Besides intelligence gathering, Mansur is also the coordinator of tax collection in Janaale, a town that had been remitting a substantive amount of money in the form of Zakat to the Al-Shabaab militants.

For a decade, the militants terrorized residents, subjecting them to mandatory taxation. Those objected to stringent measures were recommended for execution by the militants, he said.

"He has been collecting taxes from the locals. Very important now that we have deprived them a substantive amount of revenue which they rely on to carry out their attacks against the people," he added.

To sustain their unscrupulous activities, Al-Shabaab has resorted to mafia-style taxation across the country, targeting several established businesses which are owned by civilians, a report by UN Panel of Experts observed.

In fact, the group has reportedly made inroads to the capital, Mogadishu, almost eight years after losing grip to SNA and AMISOM troops after days of heavy gunfight, reports indicate.

During the Monday take over, which was welcomed by the federal government, US forces carried five airstrikes to degrade the militants besides destroying their hideouts for easy operations, AFRICOM said.

It's in Lower Shebelle that SNA troops suffered casualties in February after the armed militants attacked El-Salini military base, which had been established by the government in the region.

Although the group remains greatly neutralized, the US said "it has the capacity to carry out small to large scale attacks in strategic areas" thus the frequent airstrikes targeting members.

In fact, on Wednesday, the militants unleashed five mortar shells to heavily fortified Halane Base camp in Mogadishu, which hosts AMISOM, AU among other diplomatic offices in the country.

Currently, there are about 6,000 active Al-Shabaab fighters in Somalia, but the group has recently witnessed massive fallout, threatening it's existence due to internal squabbles.