African Union troops seize key Somali town

 

African Union troops seized a rebel stronghold near Mogadishu from al-Qa'ida-linked insurgents today, marking a major blow against the al Shabaab rebels who have used the town to stage sporadic attacks on the capital.

The capture of Afgoye by the AU force AMISOM and Somali government troops, who already control most of Mogadishu, also paves the way to securing a corridor to the capital giving access to agencies providing humanitarian aid to displaced people.

Nevertheless, it still leaves the capital vulnerable to attacks because African Union and government troops have as yet been unable to dislodge the last of the rebels from areas just around Mogadishu.

"We are now fully controlling Afgoye town," Lieutenant Colonel Paddy Ankunda, AMISOM spokesman, told Reuters.

Al Shabaab confirmed the capture of the town by the AU forces on its website and said the Islamist withdrawal was tactical.

"Thousands of our enemies, AMISOM, with tanks, entered Afgoye town on Friday after three days of fighting," the website said. "They took the town without resistance. The mujahideen withdrew as part of our tactics."

Afgoye is a strategic junction town on the road leading from Mogadishu to the south of the Horn of Africa nation, about 30 km (20 miles) outside the capital.

"It is a significant blow for al Shabaab, that said al Shabaab is not a diminished force and having been in Mogadishu I can tell you they continue to infiltrate the city, continue to conduct assassinations and other asymmetric war tactics," Rasheed Abdi, an independent Horn of Africa analyst, said.

"They (AMISOM and Somali government troops) should not rest on their laurels, the struggle continues ... Mogadishu still remains vulnerable to these attacks."

Although al Shabaab withdrew from Mogadishu last August, they have managed to launch devastating al-Qa'ida-style attacks in Mogadishu such as a suicide bombing on a ceremony at the national theatre last month.

The AU force began its advance on Tuesday, forcing hundreds of families to flee their makeshift homes in the Afgoye corridor, once a rural area northwest of Mogadishu but now home to hundreds of thousands of Somalis uprooted from their homes during years of chaotic fighting.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said today about 6,200 people had been displaced following the fighting in Afgoye.

The African Union has said securing the Afgoye corridor, believed to be an area with the largest concentration of internally displaced people in the world, would give some 400,000 people access to aid.

The UN resident and humanitarian coordinator for Somalia said there seemed to be "little collateral damage to civilians", adding those displaced would have more access to humanitarian services.

"The level of service could change, some things were difficult to provide, particularly ... dealing with education. Health services were also limited," Mark Bowden told Reuters.

Al Shabaab has waged a bloody five-year insurgency to remove Somalia's Western-backed government and impose its harsh interpretation of sharia or Islamic law on a country that has had no central government for the past two decades.

"However strategic Afgoye may be, even if Afgoye is taken I don't think that will be the end of the military challenge," Augustine Mahiga, special representative of the UN secretary general on Somalia, said earlier today.

The Islamist militants, who control swathes of Somalia, are also fighting against Somali government and Kenyan troops in the rebel-controlled southern and central parts of the country.

Ethiopian forces have also crossed into Somalia to tackle the militants.

Reuters

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
News
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living