Somali forces say they've retaken Al-Shabaab strongholds

Hard-line islamist fighters exchange gun fire with government forces in Mogadishu on July 3, 2009.

Story highlights

  • Military forces say they have taken strongholds in northeastern Mogadishu
  • The military cites "a big achievement"
  • Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack last week that killed dozens
Military forces have managed to take the remaining strongholds of al Qaeda affiliate Al-Shabaab in the far northeast of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, the military said.
"In effect, operations will now focus on the environs of the city and policing within the liberated areas," the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said in a statement, adding that its troops worked with Transitional Federal Government forces.
"Our joint operations have gone extremely well today and over the weekend," AMISOM spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda said. "Casualties have been thankfully very low on our side, with just one killed and six minor injuries. The outer north and eastern fringes of the city must still be cleared, but key ground and buildings are no longer under the control of the extremists."
"It has been a big achievement to remove Al-Shabaab from the city, and put an end to the fighting that disrupted so many lives. But the challenge is now to protect civilians from the sort of terror attack we saw last week, as they attempt to rebuild their lives."
Last week Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for a suicide truck bombing in the heart of Mogadishu that left dozens dead.
Other Al-Shabaab attacks last week led to the deaths of at least 10 civilians.
Al-Shabaab was designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. government in March 2008. The group is waging a war against Somalia's government to implement a stricter form of Islamic law, or Sharia.
Federal and African Union forces in the impoverished and chaotic nation have battled the group for years. Many analysts believe Al-Shabaab has been severely weakened by AMISOM, targeted strikes against foreign members and the weakening of al Qaeda.
Al-Shabaab said in August that it was withdrawing from Mogadishu, and the Transitional Federal Government, backed by African Union peacekeepers, now control most districts of the capital city, the United Nations office said.
Forces have pushed Al-Shabaab outside most of Mogadishu, but the group is still a major threat, said African Union forces spokesman Lt. Col. Paddy Nkunda in a statement last week.