Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ethiopian, Somali troops seize southern town

(Xinhua) -- Somali government troops backed by Ethiopian forces on Thursday captured a strategic town in the south of the horn of African nation after Al-Shabaab rulers fled the area, residents and officials said.

The town of Hudur, provincial capital of Bakool region in the southwest of the country fell into government hands without any fighting with Al-Shabaab fighters who left the town hours before the troops entered, residents said.

Somali government has welcomed the retaking of the strategic town which has a disused airbase of the former Somali government.

Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said that the capture of Hudur shows "the determination of Somali government to liberate the rest of the country from the grip of al Qaida linked Al-Shabaab".

The militant group of Al-Shabaab has been losing territory to Somali government forces and forces from neighboring country following the retreat of the group's fighters from the Somali capital Mogadishu last year.

The Al-Shabaab commanders have described their withdrawal from Hudur and other areas in south and centre of the country including Mogadishu as tactical move, saying their forces would revert to guerilla war.

Ethiopian troops as well as Kenyan forces have launched military offensive against Al-Shabaab militants in central and southern Somalia. The group lost two previous keys towns of Baidoa in the south and Beledweyne in the centre to Ethiopian forces.
Kenyan military have also pushed the group's fighters from areas close to the common frontier with Somalia. Kenya offered to join more than 4,500 of its troops to be part of the UN authorized African Union peacekeeping troops (AMISOM) currently operating in Mogadishu.

AMISOM is scheduled to replace Ethiopian troops in southern provinces of Bay and Bakool.

Source: (Xinhua)

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