Ethiopian troops seize main rebel town
27 March 2012, 10:44
Mogadishu - Ethiopian forces on Monday seized the main base of the
al-Qaeda-linked Shabaab insurgents in central Somalia, the latest
stronghold the extremists have lost in recent months, witnesses said.
troops and fighters from the pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna Wal
Jamaa seized El Bur town, some 150km south of the Ethiopian border,
after a brief fire fight.
"Ethiopian troops have taken positions
inside and outside the town, but most of the residents fled before they
arrived," said Abdukadir Sahal, a resident.
The loss of the town tightens the net on the hard line Shabaab, who are facing attacks on multiple fronts by regional armies.
was brief exchange of gunfire on the outskirts of town but al-Shabaab
fled... there are Ethiopian troops with armoured trucks, pulling heavy
artillery weapons," Sahal added.
"There was no fighting inside El Bur, but al-Shabaab fighters are not far away," said Ahmednur Fodade, another resident.
soldiers in battle trucks began the advance on El Bur at the weekend,
bolstering allied fighters from Ahlu Sunna at the central Somali town of
Dhusamareb, before pushing on some 100km south.
El Bur is the
fourth Shabaab stronghold to be seized by the Ethiopian forces, who
deployed into lawless Somalia in November, after Kenya also sent troops
into southern Somalia to battle the ruthless militia.
abandoned bases in the anarchic capital Mogadishu in August after their
four-year bloody insurgency failed to topple the Western-backed Somali
government, protected by a contingent of African Union troops.
Lost two key towns
AU force is currently made up of some 10 000 soldiers from Burundi,
Djibouti and Uganda, while Kenyan troops are due to integrate into the
However, while the Shabaab have lost key towns recently,
they still remain a serious threat, especially as they continue a bloody
campaign of suicide and mortar attacks.
Shabaab spokesperson Ali
Mohamud Rage, speaking earlier on Monday before the fall of El Bur, said
defiantly that the insurgents would not give up their fight.
mujahedeen fighters will not be deterred from implementing Islamic
Shari'ah in Somalia and to defeat the Christian invaders - we will
continue fighting and the enemy will be defeated God willing," Rage told
Two decades of lawlessness has seen the Horn of Africa
nation carved up between multiple armed groups and extremist militia
like the Shabaab.
Somalia has had no effective central government since president Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.
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 hard line fighters - the Shabaab - mounted a bruising guerilla