Somalia: Govt Forces Seize Key Town as Residents Flee



Garowe Online (Garowe)

31 December 2011


Beledweyne — Government forces loyal to Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have attacked and seized control of a key town in central Somalia, Radio Garowe reports.

TFG forces launched a daybreak attack Saturday on the positions of Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabaab fighters in the outskirts of Beledweyne, provincial capital of Hiran region.

“Fighting erupted this morning. We could hear the sound of heavy gunfire outside of Beleweyne and then Al Shabaab fighters withdrew. There are soldiers inside Beledweyne. Many residents are fleeing the town,” said a resident who did not want to be identified in print.

Some reports said Ethiopian troops operating along the Ethiopia-Somalia border conducted military maneuvers, as TFG forces pushed into Beledweyne.

Al Shabaab militants have controlled Beledweyne since 2009. TFG forces based near the Ethiopia-Somalia boundary have been building forces using an alliance with local clan militias to dislodge Al Shabaab from Beledweyne.

Local sources report Al Shabaab fighters reteated to Bulo Burte, a district southeast of Beledweyne. Many wounded fighters were taken to Bulo Burte for treatment, sources added.

Since retreating from most of Mogadishu last August, Al Shabaab fighters have been loosing ground in central and southern regions of Somalia. The UN-backed TFG in Mogadishu is supported by a 10,000-strong African Union peacekeeping force (AMISOM) in the fight to defeat Al Shabaab terror group and restore governance in Mogadishu.

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