By:Zakariye Ahmed, Horn diplomat correspondent
More than 3,000 militants from Al-Shabaab were killed and other 3,700 were wounded in the last six months of military operations against Al-Shabaab militant group, Somalia’s government says in a statement on Saturday.
“According to a report by Somalia’s Defence Ministry, about 70 towns and villages have been liberated from the hands of the Al Shabab by the Somali National Forces with the support of the locals”, the statement said.
The national army has been battling Al-Shabaab militant group, since the government-led military operations against the group began six months ago.
During the first phase of the military operations, the national army, with the help of local forces, captured key Al-Shabaab strongholds in towns such as Harardheere, Galcad, and Aadan Yabaal.
In August, President Hassan declared a “total war” against Al-Shabaab shortly after his re-election in May last year. Previously, he held the office from 2012 to 2017.
Al-Shabaab released an audio message from their leader, Ahmed Diriye, also known as Abu Ubaidah, calling President Hassan the worst of Somali politicians and vowing to fight the new government, shortly after Hassan took office in June.
In March, Somalia’s federal and regional leaders (with the exception of Puntland, which did not participate) agreed to increase the national armed forces to 30,000 soldiers and 40,000 police personnel to take over security duties from the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS), which is set to depart by the end of next year, according to VOA.
The second phase of military operations against Al-Shabaab militants is expected to begin soon, with troops from neighboring countries such as Djibouti, Kenya, and Ethiopia mandated to fight alongside Somali forces in joint operations.
In February, the leaders of the Horn of Africa countries of Ethiopia, Somalia, Djibouti, and Kenya met in Mogadishu for a day-long security summit. They agreed to coordinate joint operations aimed at defeating and eliminating Al-Shabaab.
There have been reports of Ethiopian troops entering the Gedo region of southern Somalia this month, following a request from the Somali government to help in the fight against Al-Shabaab.
Somalia’s national security advisor, Hussein Sheikh Ali, stated in an interview with VOA Somali Service that the government’s primary goal is to eliminate Al-Shabaab before June or July of 2024.