Al-Shabaab weakened as their stronghold falls in central Somalia

The Somali army, with the support of local tribes, has achieved a strategic victory by capturing the main stronghold of the Al-Shabaab terror group in central Somalia, opening the way for them to begin the second phase of eliminating the group’s southern strongholds in the regions of Jubaland and the southwestern parts of the country.

The army deployed 10,000 soldiers and 3,000 militiamen with US air support and exhausted Al-Shabaab elements in battles on the outskirts before storming El Buur.

The importance of El Buur

El Buur is considered a self-contained emirate for the Al-Shabaab movement affiliated with the terrorist organization Al-Qaeda. It is distant from its strongholds in the south, especially after the army liberated the Hirshabelle region, which resulted in cutting off supply routes or at least weakening them.

Hirshabelle lies between Galmudug and the southwestern region, and the three regions are interconnected. However, the army’s plan in its first phase, which began in August 2022, focused on liberating the entire cities and towns of Hiran and Middle Shabelle, adjacent to Mogadishu, which led to cutting ties with Al-Shabaab’s strongholds in the central and southern parts.

El Buur is considered a hub for planning and launching deadly terrorist operations in various cities and towns in the central region due to its strategic location and the network of roads and routes leading to different cities and towns in the central region.

The statement of Somali army commander Ibrahim Sheikh Mahiuddin explains, “Taking control of El Buur will completely stop the misery caused by the Al-Shabaab movement, and peace and prosperity will prevail.”

The biggest challenge for the Somali government is to maintain control of the city and prevent Al-Shabaab from retaking it, as it has done on previous occasions.

By losing a strategic town like El Buur, Al-Shabaab has lost a financial resource to fund its terrorist operations and its radical leaders and members may be forced to flee to their strongholds in the south, making it easier for the Somali army to completely clear Galmudug, especially the rural areas where the organization’s elements are likely to hide.

The liberation of the town

Despite the Somali army initially waiting for support from the three neighbouring countries, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti, to start the second phase and liberate El Buur, the lack of support and the worsening security situation in the Ethiopian region of Amhara did not prevent it from carrying out the operation.

Over the past ten months, 10,000 soldiers have been trained and equipped in addition to 3,000 militiamen from the local tribal militias known locally as “Ma’awiysli.”

The US Africa Command (AFRICOM) also participated in supporting the liberation of El Buur by targeting Al-Shabaab militants with drone airstrikes.

Since the end of July, the Somali army has intensified its attacks on areas near El Buur with the support of the Darawiish forces from the region and the local population.

On August 25th, the Somali army announced its control over the city after the killing of 27 Al-Shabaab members on the night of August 24th, in an operation described as “planned.”

The second phase of the military operation against Al-Shabaab

The announcement of the start of the second phase of the military operation against the Al-Shabaab movement has not been made yet, especially after Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti withdrew their commitment to assist at this stage, according to the agreement signed in February of last year.

However, the liberation of El Buur, which began in July and ended on August 25th, marked a practical launch of the second phase of the military operation against the movement.

Thus, the army has succeeded in neutralizing the movement to a large extent in the central regions, although the clearing of villages and rural areas is still ongoing, allowing it to shift the weight of the battles to the south.

During the first phase of the operation against Al-Shabaab, which began in August 2022, the Somali army managed to liberate about 70 cities and towns in the Hirshabelle and Galmudug regions in the central part of the country.

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