.Hundreds of heavily armed Ethiopian troops advanced into a central Somali town on Saturday with the aim of attacking the main stronghold of the Al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab militia in the region, witnesses said.A convoy of battle trucks drove into Dhusamareb, which is under the control of a pro-government Somali militia, ahead of a planned attack on the Shebab-controlled town of El Bur, 100 kilometres away, local residents said.“The Ethiopian troops in at least 50 trucks entered Dhusamareb this morning.“Their target this time seems to be El Bur district, which is the main base of the Al-Shabaab” in central Somalia, said Abdulahi Ahmed, an elder in Dhusamareb.The Shabaab commander in the region, Sheik Adan Farey, confirmed the military movement, saying his fighters were ready for the Ethiopians.“The invading Christian mercenaries from Ethiopia entered Dhusamareb. Whatever their intentions are, we will defeat them,” Farey told AFP by phone.Ethiopian troops have captured Baidoa and Hudur, two key Shabaab towns in southern Somalia, since deploying into the war-torn country in November.Ethiopia’s latest incursion is the second in five years. They toppled an Islamist movement after deploying in 2006, but they withdrew in 2009 after the group’s hardline fighters — the Shabaab — mounted a bruising guerrilla war.Now the Shabaab are facing increasing pressure from regional armies, with Kenyan troops in the far south and a 10,000-strong African Union force battling them in the capital Mogadishu.The Shabaab were ousted from Dhusamareb on Tuesday hours after they captured it from the pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna in fierce fighting.The Shabaab and other armed groups control large swathes of the south of the lawless Horn of Africa nation, which has had no effective central government since the ouster of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Al- Shabaab's Abu Mansour Al-Amriki appears to be in troubleA prominent American fighter for Al Shabaab has claimed his life is under threat from fellow guerrillas due to internal disputes within the group. Omar Hammami, an American citizen from Alabama, and the only foreigner who holds a public position in Al Shabaab, joined in 2006, under the nom de guerre Abu Mansour al-Amriki.
Last week he posted a video saying he felt his life might be endangered by other members of the Harakat Shabaab al-Mujahideen "due to some differences that occurred between us regarding matters of Sharia and matters of strategy". There were reports that Hammami had been arrested near Merca following the posting of his comments on YouTube but Al-Shabaab quickly denied the allegation and promised an investigation to verify the authenticity of the video and motivations behind it. It said that it could assure "our Muslim brothers that al-Amriki is not endangered by the Mujahideen" and "still enjoys all the privileges of brotherhood."
There have been frequent reports of long-standing divisions between Al-Shabaab Somali commanders more interested in Somali affairs and those who concentrate on a more global jihad and the links to Al Qaeda. There have been claims that the former were implicated in the deaths of at least two figures closely linked to Al-Qaeda, Fazul Mohamed and Bilal al-Barjawi. The factions have accused each other of giving information to the Americans. Hammami’s video suggests that disputes over ideology and strategy are having a serious effect on the organization, and it has been described as a significant public relations setback.
The indication of more divisions near the top of the organization is likely to have a further demoralizing effect on Al-Shabaab's foreign fighters. There are believed to be several hundred of these though there were unconfirmed reports a few weeks ago that 300 of them had left Kismayo and retreated to Yemen. --MFA