MOGADISHU, Somalia – A contingent from the Somali National Army [SNA] on Tuesday fought with Al-Shabaab militants in Basra in an operation that lasted for hours as the country struggles to restore order in various parts of the Horn of Africa, which has yet to fully defeat the Al-Qaeda-linked group.
Al-Shabaab militants still control large parts of central and southern Somalia in the countryside, but ongoing operations have drastically weakened the group, which is also struggling to contain internal disparities. Al-Shabaab is eager to overthrow the fragile UN-backed Somalia administration.
For the past seven months, SNA troops have been working closely with the African Union mission forces and the US-African command that ruled over Al-Shabaab strongholds, leading to the liberation of several cities in addition to capturing and killing a number of militants in the whole country.
Military reports show that SNA troops engaged Al-Shabaab militants who had attacked several bases in the city. In response, the military opened fire on the militants, leading to several hours of standoff as gunfire hit the air in the city of the Middle Shabelle region, located 30 kilometers north of Mogadishu.
Both sides do not yet have to disclose the number of victims before the report was prepared. However, several sources said the militants, who had been overwhelmed by the military, blew up for safety in nearby scrub, and a manhunt has since been launched by SNA troops.
The city was liberated from the militants a few years ago, but they have often returned in an attempt to regain control. However, the hawkish military officers have since installed a civilian administration, further cutting Al-Shabaab’s revenue from the city.
Such operations have often been carried out by Danab soldiers trained by the U.S. Africa Command, which has bases in Somalia. Elite soldiers often work closely with the foreign military during such operations and prepare to take security responsibility when AMISOM troops leave Somalia.
Elsewhere, several people are believed to have died on Tuesday after their bus ran over an improvised explosive device planted along the Mogadishu-Jowhar road. The incident took place near the town of Basra in the porous southwestern part of Somalia, where SNA troops have carried out operations.
For the past four days, SNA troops have pitched a tent in Basra, near Bal’ad, in pursuit of the militants. Reports showed that the military has managed to capture several Al-Shabaab militants during the operation in addition to flushing them out of certain strategic villages.
Al-Shabaab militants are estimated to be around 7,000 and reside mainly in Somalia, but have often crossed the border into Kenya, where they have carried out sophisticated attacks.
The U.S. military recently called the group “dangerous” and promised to continue cooperating with FGS in ongoing campaigns to completely dismantle the militants.