MOGADISHU / BARDERE – Somali National Army (SNA) troops backed by African Union forces in Somalia launched fresh attacks Tuesday on rebel-held villages north of Mogadishu.
The coalition forces left from Jowhar and Mahaday towns and clashed with a number of heavily armed militants belonging to the Al-Shabaab rebels in areas near the two towns, military officer Azad Mohamed said.
Mohamed told The Messenger that several militants were killed in a skirmish that took place in the village of Ali-Foldhere near Mahaday town.
It is the first time that coalition troops have raided rebel bases in the area. Al-Shabaab have been holding the area for the past seven years.
“We have successfully liberated villages held by Al-Shabaab. SNA troops along with our AMISOM brothers targeted the militants. A number of militants died and others were wounded,” Mohamed said.
In an interview with The Messenger, local resident Aweis Afrah Hussein said that heavy weapons could be heard shortly after the allied forces moved into rebel held villages near the town.
“Indeed, we expressed concern over the new operation against Al-Shabaab fighters near towns of Jowhar and Mahaday. It is possible for both sides to fight for weeks,” Hussein said Tuesday.
The new operation was led by Somalia’s army commander, Gen. Abdullahi Anod and other senior African Union peacekeeping commanders. The operation reportedly also involved foreign troops, thought to be from US forces in Somalia.
The armed group claimed to have defended against the new attacks on its bases, saying on its website that after fighting the coalition forces the allied troops withdrew to Biyo Adde area near Mahaday town.
Separately, Somali army forces also attacked a rebel-held base west of Bardere town in the Gedo Region, killing three militants.
Military officer Col. Abdullahi Shukri said the military troops launched an assault on the militants’ base in Laheley area, which is located about 25 km west of the town. “We brought bodies of three militants into the town after fighting between military soldiers and armed militants of Al Shabaab,” Shukri told The Messenger by phone.
He said that one of their soldiers was wounded and three other militants, adding that two machine-guns, AK-47s and a number of explosive devices were seized from Al-Shabaab.
“Our brave military soldiers have also arrested at least two militants alive during the clash. I believe that a number of militants escaped with injuries,” he added.
A 44-year-old mother of five, Aisha Hussein Mohamed, selling tea near the area, said that she had seen several soldiers bleeding after being wounded in the fighting.
“We live under Al Shabaab held village but Somali military soldiers armed with heavy weapons assailed in the area, and then battled militants for hours in earlier on Wednesday,” she said.
There was no immediate response from Al Shabaab over the military claims.
Reporting by Abdirizak Mohamud Tuuryare