Monday, August 27, 2012
Somali army sets its sights on Kismayo
July 23, 2012
The Somali army, backed by African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces, is poised to take control of towns and rural villages in Lower Juba as it marches towards the strategic city and al-Shabaab-stronghold of Kismayo.
Major General Abdikarim Yusuf Dhegobadan said he expects his forces to purge Kismayo, Somalia's third-largest city located 500 kilometres south of Mogadishu, of al-Shabaab by August.
Dhegobadan told Sabahi that the terrorists are fleeing their hideouts as Somali forces advance.
He called on residents to evacuate areas under al-Shabaab control and move away from locations that contain weapons caches.
"Kismayo is a symbol for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG), which is why it is trying to take over the city," he said.
According to parliamentarian Mohamed Omar Gedi, al-Shabaab's extremism and crimes against humanity, which have included assassinations of Muslim scholars, intellectuals and whoever opposes their deviant beliefs, have gone too far.
Gedi said the Somali army will soon crush the terrorists and that al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabaab is on its deathbed.
"Our troops have made progress in the latest confrontations and senior leaders of the radical group and their militias have been stricken with fear," he told Sabahi. "We will take control of Kismayo as new fighting breaks out and the raging fires engulf [the enemy]. We will be victorious and will prevail."
Somali military officials said the army's operations will likely expand towards Lower Juba after the TFG mobilises its military towards Marka, the capital of Lower Shabelle and Jowhar, the capital of Middle Shabelle.
Deputy Minister of Air, Sea, and Land Transportation and Ports Abdirahman Kulmiye Hirsi said the government's capture of Kismayo, al-Shabaab's largest remaining stronghold, will be a fatal blow to the group.
"Our forces will intensify security and attack campaigns targeting the bases of these groups in several locations in the regions of Gedo, Lower Shabelle, Middle Shabelle and Lower Juba to secure ports and roads and allow the delivery of aid and medical assistance to people affected by diarrhoea and cholera, which have lately become epidemics," he told Sabahi.
Former AMISOM spokesman Major Paddy Ankunda revealed a comprehensive plan to take over Kismayo so that aid can be distributed and residents can lead a normal life.
Ankunda told reporters in Mogadishu that people will soon hear good news about Kismayo.
Kismayo residents say they suffer from financial hardship, water scarcity, electricity outages, and food and medicine shortages due to al-Shabaab's grip on the city, and live in constant fear that the group will carry out retaliatory attacks as Somali and AMISOM forces approach.
Anab Mohamed Musa, 36, said she fled Kismayo five months ago after al-Shabaab forbade her from selling qat, which is legal in Somalia, to support her three children.
"Most doctors, relief workers, journalists and even students that studied English in the city who were accused of spying for Western intelligence agencies had to flee," she told Sabahi. "The rebel group monitored cell phone calls through local telecommunications companies so they could listen in on conversations and carry out assassinations and thwart plots hatched against the group."
Kismayo resident Abbas Mohamed told Sabahi that al-Shabaab fighters stopped a number of elderly citizens from travelling to Mogadishu to receive essential medical care as part of the group's efforts to prevent residents from fleeing to areas under TFG control.
He said al-Shabaab also harasses women, imposes strict dress codes and bans them from working.
Mohamed said al-Shabaab forced most of Kismayo's men to bear arms and train for guerrilla warfare, and imposed their style of dress so there would be no discernible difference between civilians and militants.
Al-Shabaab has also recruited women and girls to carry out attacks, he said, and during the past three years, they have given away prizes in the form of Kalashnikov rifles and hand grenades to children who memorised the Qur'an.
Mohamed said the people have a hatred of al-Shabaab's behaviour and aggression.
"The militants of the group allied with al-Qaeda planned for and executed horrendous acts that have disgraced humanity, such as stoning to death a girl for adultery who was not yet a teenager," he said. "This was committed without a full investigation of the charge [brought against her] and without full medical tests to determine her sanity and physical wellbeing."