Somali army commanders say their forces killed more than 100 al-Shabab militants during weekend offensives to retake territory from the Islamist militant group. Witnesses say the troops also recaptured two villages that al-Shabab had held for more than a decade.
The Somali National Army said Monday that troops launched a fresh offensive against al-Shabab in the central Hiran region over the weekend.
Senior army commanders in Hiran who spoke to VOA via phone said that fierce firefights between the military and al-Shabab began early Saturday, especially in the villages of Aborey and Yasooman.
They told VOA that 75 al-Shabab militants were killed in the fighting in Yasooman and 30 in the vicinity of Aborey.
Local residents told VOA via WhatsApp that troops took control of both villages, which had been under al-Shabab control for more than a decade.
Speaking to media at the frontline, Abdifatah Hassan Afrah, the former governor of Hiran, said troops are defeating “the enemy of Somali people,” referring to al-Shabab.
He says our victories are bringing more victories, and it is coming one after the other. And their defeat will bring them more defeat. By the will of Allah (God), we are wishing that they will be cleared out of the country.
Somalia’s information ministsaid Sunday that the army’s recent offensives have killed 200 al-Shabab fighters and “liberated” 30 villages from the group in all.
Malik Abdalla is a member of the Somali federal parliament from Hiran. He told VOA via WhatsApp that the fighting in Hiran also involved local militias known as Macawisley.
He said residents of the villages have had enough of al-Shabab.
He says the reason why the people of Hiran or the people in this region fight is because they could not bear the hardships they faced day and night. He says they stood up to survive after al-Shabab blew up their water wells and their villages burned.
Al-Shabab has yet to comment on the army and Information Ministry’s claims. But in a video released by the group’s media wing Sunday night, spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage, known as Ali Dhere, said the group is ready for the war that Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, declared on them.
Rage warned Mogadishu residents to stay away from hotels that are frequented by Somali government officials.
President Mohamud, who was elected in May, announced that his administration will wage a “total war” against the al-Shabab network after the group attacked a hotel in Mogadishu, killing more than 20 people and wounded at least 100 others.