Eighty-eight al-Shabab militants were killed this week in a joint operation by the Somali National Army and allied clan militia in the Middle Shabelle region, Somali’s Deputy Information Minister Abdirahman Yusuf Al-Adala said Thursday at a news conference.
The minister said national forces defeated the militants, who were regrouping in those areas, and the forces recaptured Juhay village. The forces are collecting the bodies of the killed militants, he added.
Abdisalam Guled, founder of Eagle Range Services, a security company in Mogadishu, said the success against al-Shabab in Middle Shabelle is a major boost for the ongoing campaign by government forces and local militias.
However, Guled said there is criticism that the fighting against al-Shabab is led by tribal forces and the government is only taking part in it. He warned that the government risks losing control of the campaign by allowing militias to take the lead.
He said the fighting against al-Shabab, which was led by the Hawadle clan, broke out in the Hiiraan region and was successful, and now it seems that the Abgaal clan is leading the fight in the Middle Shabelle region, and the government is acting as a participant.
Guled, who previously served as the national deputy director of intelligence, said the government needs to make a concerted effort to complete the remaining operations in the central regions before opening up other battle fronts.
The federal government said early this month it will be launching operations in the Jubaland and South West state regions, but security analysts say such action could stretch available resources and give al-Shabab more space to fight back.
Guled said the government should set a plan for the fighting and should act by the end of January. He added that the next target should be the town of Harardhere, which remains an al-Shabab stronghold in central Somalia.
Prime Minister Hamza Barre said this week while visiting the newly captured Adan Yabal village in Middle Shabelle that al-Shabab militants should be hunted down, even in mosques.
Abdiaziz Hussein Issack, a security and political analyst with the Hamad Bin Khalifa Civilization Center, a cultural and research center in Denmark, said the militant group has been using mosques as defense positions and hideouts.
Issack dismissed claims that al-Shabab might use the prime minister’s directive to build a narrative against the government. He said armed al-Shabab fighters using a mosque as a defensive position and firing at soldiers should be killed because they are fighting and, in that case, the government’s order to kill fighters in mosques would not have bad repercussions.
The federal government recently said that the offensive with clan militias, also known as Community Defense Forces, has killed more than 600 al-Shabab militants and captured dozens of villages in central parts of the country.