Somalia: Forces Make Progress as Al-Shabaab Rift WidensIn the last few days, TFG forces with the support of AMISOM troops have secured more areas in Somali capital, Mogadishu. These gains come amidst reports that the Al-Shabaab’s second in command has withdrawn his forces from the city as rifts within the extremist group deepen in the wake of the failed Ramadan offensive.
The TFG forces have now taken the Taribune square, the former military hospital, Taleh Hotel and many other places in that area. The new positions are close to Bakara Market, the biggest market in the country, used by the Al-Shabaab to launch mortars into other areas of the city.
The move into these positions is designed to inhbit the group’s ability to hide behind non-combatants and should result in a drastic reduction of civilian casualties in the city.
The TFG has in recent months expanded the areas under its control in the city. The 7 districts it controls are now home to 90 percent of the city’s population as people move away from the harsh regime imposed by the insurgent in areas under their control.
Meanwhile, Mukhtar Robow, Deputy Commander in-Chief of Al-Shabaab, has reportedly moved his forces to Bay and Bakool regions of southern Somalia. He is said to be considering forming a new group, to be known as Al Islamia ……, and is apparently consolidating his forces in anticipation of a coming fight with his former comrades.
Clan divisions and disputes over command, policies and the role of foreign fighters within Al-Shabaab have been exacerbated by heavy losses suffered in the August/September offensive.
Robow’s forces, mostly from the Rahawein clan, bore the brunt of these casualties, with nearly 10 percent of the estimated two thousand men he had deployed in the city killed.
The withdrawal of Robow’s fighters is a massive body blow to the Al-Shabaab insurgents as they constituted a big portion of the group’s fighting force during the offensive. The extremists are attempting to replace the lost capacity by press ganging abducted children into service. Sources say nearly 2000 children are being held and undergoing training in the group’s camps in Central Somalia.
Robow, one of the more moderate voices within the al Shabaab, was replaced as the group’s spokesman in 2009 following his opposition to the policy of denying access to humanitarian organizations trying to help the suffering population in Central and South Somali. He is also said to object to the increasing role of foreign fighters in the movement.
He is said to be close to Hassan Dahir Aweys, leader of the rival Hizbul Islam militia, who has also pulled out his forces from the capital. This leaves Al Shabaab isolated at a time when the Transitional Federal Government troops, supported by African Union forces are making gains on the ground in Mogadishu.
Minister of Information, Abdirahman Omar Osman (Eng. Yarisow), has called on the armed opposition groups to join the country’s peace process for the sake of the suffering populace. “We are ready to work with our brothers in these groups provided they renounce the use of violence,” he said.
Terror Free Somalia Foundation
Views from the Frontline' (tf.sf)
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