US ambassador: Al-Shabaab lost territory in Somalia

Larry André Jr. United States Ambassador to Somalia since February 2022.

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Al-Shabaab militants have lost significant territories in Somalia since the launch of operations against the group last year, US ambassador to the country Larry Andre has noted, just as the country embarks on second phase of the fight against the extremists who have been fighting to topple the government.

On Sunday, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud launched the second phase of operations against the group at Adan Yabal which was recently liberated from the militants following the operation which started in July 2022 after Hassan Sheikh Mohamud assumed office for the second term.

The first phase of operations may have left the group with little or no strongholds according to Larry Andre, with the US playing a critical role in supporting offensive against the militants.

The US Africa Command has been offering aerial surveillance to Somali National Army [SNA] and African Union Transition Mission in Somalia [ATMIS]. "Somali-led offensives have restored Somalia's sovereignty to 1/3 of the territory formerly misruled by al-Shabaab," Larry André told VOA Somali in an email. "Ending al-Shabab's oppression is one step further toward Somalia's full revival." Besides offering aerial surveillance and assistance, the US donated weapons to the Danab Special forces who are mainly used in complex operations across the country. The US has been equipping and training the Danab Special Forces who are the counterterrorism allies in the Horn of Africa nation.

A statement released by the Ministry of Information confirmed that 3,000 al-Shabab militants were killed and 3,700 more were injured in the first phase of military operations between August of last year and January.

The government also said 70 towns and villages have been liberated from al-Shabab. But Al-Shabaab spokesperson Ali Mohamud Rage alias Ali Dheere insisted the first phase "failed" in an interview with Voice of America.

While insisting the government had maintained it will eliminate Al-Shabaab within six months, he noted that the US was "mobilizing" forces against them. "The first phase of the operation concocted by the infidels has turned futile," he said. However, senior Somali security official dismissed Ali Dhere's claims, noting that the group lost in Meduug, Hiiraan and Galgaduud where they had established bases for the last 16 years. The "definition of failure has to be revisited if liberating Middle Shabelle, Hiran, South Mudug and parts of Galgadud is a failure," said Kamal Dahir Hassan Gutale, national security adviser to Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre.

The "Somali people and their government made possible all those successes reached by our security forces in a very short time," he said. "He is facing young Somali soldiers who are well-trained, battle-hardened, who took the battle towards the front lines," he said. "Let him face them — they have liberated over 500 KMs from al-Shabab, and still they are after him.

Al-Shabaab has been fighting to topple the fragile UN-backed federal government of Somalia but the resistance from SNA, ATMIS, US Africa Command and local militia has proved to be very strong. The government of Somalia insists that by December 2024, Al-Shabaab would have been completely eliminated.


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