Shabaab seize central Somali town
20 March 2012, 15:05
Somalia - Al-Qaeda-allied Islamist gunmen seized the key town of
Dhusamareb in central Somalia Tuesday, as Shabaab commanders called on
fighters to intensify attacks against government and regional forces.
said Shabaab fighters on pickup trucks mounted with machine guns
entered the town at dawn, driving out the pro-government militia Ahlu
Sunna Wal Jamaa, an Ethiopian-backed force who follow Somalia's
traditional Sufi branch of Islam.
"The mujahideen fighters
stormed the district after attacking it from two directions early this
morning, there was little fighting as the apostate militia fled the
city," Shabaab commander Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim said by telephone.
"With God's help, we will be advancing onto other districts in the region," he added.
is a strategic town in the central Galgadud region controlling a key
road, and its capture marks a notable fight back by the hardline
Shabaab, who have pulled out of several key areas in recent months.
Rival armed groups have repeatedly fought over Dhusamareb, controlling it briefly until fresh attacks root them out.
fighters riding on vehicles mounted with guns entered the town after
fighting with the Sufis, the city has now fallen and they are setting up
their base in the police station," said Abdirahman Moalim, an elder in
"Al-Shabaab is in full control, the other fighters [Ahlu Sunna] have left," said Ahmed Mohamud, another resident.
Second major loss
town's capture comes as Shabaab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane called on
Islamist fighters to renew attacks against the 10 000-strong African
Union force, which props up the weak Western-backed government in the
anarchic capital Mogadishu.
"They [AU forces] will continue to
face hard hitting guerrilla attacks that will destroy them, just as
armies that were more powerful than them were destroyed," Godane said in
a broadcast on the pro-Shabaab Radio Al-Andalus.
Godane, who is
also known as Abu Zubayr, also called for attacks in the northern
autonomous Puntland region, which is allied to the Western-backed
"Mujahideen fighters in areas controlled by the
apostate Puntland government must remain unified, you must strengthen
your battle fronts until you ensure the Islamic flag flies over the
whole region," he added.
The Shabaab face increasing pressure
from pro-government forces and regional armies, and last month lost
control of their strategic base of Baidoa to Ethiopian troops, the
second major loss in six months after abandoning fixed bases in capital.
sent its troops into southern Somalia to fight them in October, blaming
the Shabaab for the abductions of several foreigners. Its troops have
now been incorporated into the AU force.
Ethiopian forces entered
Somalia a month later in the west, as international diplomatic,
military and relief efforts focus on ending the conflict in the south.
experts warn the Shabaab are far from defeated and remain a major
threat, especially now they have in many areas switched to guerrilla
The Shabaab and other militia groups have tried to
exploit the power vacuum in Somalia, which has had no effective central
authority since plunging into war 21 years ago when president Mohamed
Siad Barre was toppled.