Somalia’s military says its latest offensive against al-Shabab in the central part of the country Thursday killed more 100 of the extremist group’s militants. Witnesses report heavy gun battles and airstrikes.
The Somali National Army (SNA) said Friday that its operation was focused on the country’s central provinces.
At a news conference, Somali Defense Ministry spokesman Abdullahi Ali Anod said the army conducted the operation with the support of local militias.The main operation took place in the vicinity of El-Harari, located on the outskirts of the town of Adanyabal in the Middle Shabelle region.
Residents who spoke to VOA by phone reported heavy gunfire and airstrikes targeting al-Shabab militants.
Anod said there was a fierce fighting in the villages of Hawalo Hussien and Qura’dhere followed by a large operation that started on around 9:00 am on Thursday morning that took place in El-Herari, where the militants were gathering a large force to defend Adanyabal. He said the operation was conducted by Danab forces along with revolutionary forces, a reference to local armed militia.
Danab is the army’s U.S.-trained special forces unit.
The spokesman said the offensive was a combined land and air operation but did not say which country supporting Somali troops conducted the airstrikes.
The offensive comes six days after twin bombings in Mogadishu that killed more than 120 people and wounded at least 300 others, mostly civilians.
Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud recently announced a “total war” against al-Shabab militants.
Since his announcement, the military, working with militias, has recaptured some strategic towns and villages from al-Shabab.
The al-Qaida-linked group has been fighting since 2007 to remove the Somali government and impose its strict version of Islamic law on the Horn of Africa nation.