Al-Shabaab retakes strategic towns in southern Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - Embattled Al-Shabaab militants have made significant gains in central Somalia following a spirited battle with the Somali National Army [SNA] and allies, in yet another dramatic development that could erode gains made so far by the security forces.
According to multiple sources, the militants regained Deynunay village within the troubled Bay region of Somalia following hours of fighting with the government troops. The militants have been carrying out retaliatory attacks across the country following a sustained crackdown against them.
During the battle which lasted for several hours, the militants reportedly used heavy weapons, which could raise concerns about the illegal smuggling of weapons to the country. The Al-Shabaab is believed to be importing weapons from war-torn Yemen, which has been unstable for over a decade.
Also, the Somali National Army withdrew from the Gofgadud Buurey district, about 30 kilometers from Baidoa town, and militants immediately entered the area. It is not clear why the government troops withdrew even after President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud pledged to reorganize towns that have been liberated.
Security officials did not comment on the loss of Deynunay village, about 25 km from Baidoa, the interim capital of the South West regional state. The withdrawal, analysts say, is a huge blow to locals who have been helping the government effectively tackle the militants.
But despite the latest setbacks, the Somali National Army has managed to kill over 500 militants in the last three months according to Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre. The PM said that operations against Al-Shabaab will continue until all strategic towns are seized.
Throughout this year, the militants have managed to kill over 613 people and injure over 900 others, with most casualties being innocent civilians. The group has been targeting hotels with the latest raid being Villa Rays Hotel in Mogadishu, which left over 15 people dead.