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Hundreds of Al Shabab militants arrested in Mogadishu swoop

07 June 2014, 18:21

Mogadishu - Somali and African Union troops have carried out a major security swoop in Mogadishu, arresting dozens of suspected Shebab militants believed to have infiltrated the capital, the government said Saturday.

The security operation, which began on Monday, comes in the wake of a string of Shebab car bombings and suicide commando attacks against high profile targets in the city, including the heavily-fortified office of the country's internationally-backed president as well as the national parliament.

African Union troops and the national army have been gaining territory from the Shebab in the centre and south of Somalia, but the Al-Qaeda-linked rebels have often just melted away -- and there are fears that some fighters and commanders have moved back to parts of Mogadishu.

"The Somali National Security Forces along with African Union forces on Monday morning began major search operations in parts of the capital, Mogadishu," Information Minister Mustafa Duhulow said.

"The operation commenced early in the morning as people slept... The aim of this operation was to ensure that al-Shabaab is denied the opportunity to hide in in Mogadishu. The security forces arrested dozens of suspected al-Shabaab members," he added.

According to intelligence sources, the operation was launched amid suspicions that the Shebab were poised to launch more so-called "complex" attacks in the capital.

In 2011 the Shebab were forced out of fixed positions in Mogadishu but have continued to strike inside the city.

Recent Shebab attacks have targeted key areas of government, or the security forces, in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities that they are winning the war against the Islamist fighters.

Kenya is a part of the AU force in Somalia and has carried out its own independent operation in the country since 2012.

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