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African, Somali troops retake town on way to rebel stronghold

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African peacekeeping
troops and Somali forces recaptured a southern
town from Islamist al Shabaab rebels on
Saturday, bringing them a step closer to the
insurgent stronghold of Barawe, commanders
said.
The assault was part of the second phase of an
offensive launched earlier this year to drive the
rebels out of towns which they have continued
to hold since losing control of the capital
Mogadishu in 2011.
Al Shabaab ruled most of the southern region of
Somalia from 2006 until 2011 when African
troops marched into the capital. African and
Somali forces have regained several towns this
year, but rebels still hold other centres and
tracts of countryside.
“We secured Bulamareer town today. We have
chased the al Shabaab and the operation will
continue until its goals of securing the entire
country is achieved,” Abdirizak Khalif, Somalia’s
deputy military commander, told Reuters.
He did not give casualty figures, but a
spokesman for the African Union force AMISOM,
Colonel Ali Aden Houmed, said a Ugandan
soldier was killed and two soldiers wounded. He
said many rebels were killed but was not able to
give a number.
Bulamareer lies about 80 km (50 miles) north of
Barawe port, a major al Shabaab stronghold.
AMISOM’s Houmed said Barawe was “one of our
objectives” but said AMISOM and Somali forces
had other targets on the way to Barawe that
had to be dealt with first.
The rebels, which continue to stage hit-and-run
gun and bomb attacks in the capital and across
the country, acknowledged that their fighters
had pulled out of the centre of Bulamareer.
“After a serious fight with AMISOM and
government forces inside Bulamareer town we
went to the fringes of the town, but we shall
keep up attacks and battles,” Sheikh Abdiasis
Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operations
spokesman, told Reuters.
He claimed 18 African soldiers were killed and
three of their vehicles burned, but made no
mention of rebel casualties.
Even as they have lost ground, the Islamist
group which wants to impose its own strict
version of Islam on the Horn of Africa nation
has continued to harass African and government
forces and blocked aid supply routes to towns
they have lost.
Government officials have admitted that centres
they have regained have often turned into
“ghost towns” because many people flee as food
and other supplies run out. Houmed said the
new offensive aimed to prevent a repeat of this
scenario.
The assault on Bulamareer began before dawn
on Saturday. Many residents had fled before the
assault began as AMISOM and the Somali forces
had warned of an imminent attack, Houmed
said.
Earlier this week, the joint African and Somali
force retook another town, Teyeeglo, which lies
in the Bakool region, which lies northwest of
Saturday’s fighting and near the Ethiopian
border. That offensive involved Ethiopian forces.
AMISOM is a 22,000-strong African Union force
that includes troops from Ethiopia, Kenya,
Uganda, Burundi and Sierra Leone.
(Additional reporting by Feisal Omar; Writing by
Edmund Blair; Editing by Stephen Powell)

Credits: Yahoo News

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