US-backed Somali forces seize towns from Al Shabaab

File photo: A Somali National Army parade in western Mogadishu in 2012 (AU-UN IST Photo / Stuart Price)

MOGADISHU – Somalia National Army (SNA) troops, alongside AMISOM and US forces have launched a new offensive against Al Shabaab fighters, capturing small towns in the Lower Shabelle region.

The coalition forces seized Jannaale, Barire and Mubarak after militants withdrew from those small towns, resident Mohamed Hussein told The Messenger Africa.

Hussein said the joint troops clashed with a number of militants, adding that a roadside blast hit a SNA vehicle in Barire town earlier Saturday, killing a soldier and wounding two others.

“I was in my home when troops using helicopters and ground forces battled militants during the fall of Bariire town, located about 60 km south of Mogadishu,” Hussein added.

He says that a massive explosion targeted an African Union armored personnel carrier while the allied forces were returning from the vacated towns.

“Following the roadside explosion, we heard about 20 gunshots fired by the joint forces and then we saw helicopters evacuating victims as the vehicle was destroyed by the blast,” Hussein said.

The spokesperson for African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces was unavailable to reach on the phone for comments.

A Somali military official, Mohamud Nour said the operations against al-Shabaab will continue until they are cleared out of the region.

The armed fighters of Al Shabaab returned to the towns hours after the allied forces left, according to Hussein. The groups’ militants still continue to hold small rural areas in central and southern Somalia, but are being squeezed out by Somali army and African Union forces.