Ethiopian troops seize rebel town in Somalia

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 12:29

Mogadishu: Ethiopian forces Tuesday seized the
main base of the Al Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents in central Somalia, the latest stronghold the extremists have lost in
recent months, witnesses said.

Ethiopian troops and fighters from the pro-government
militia Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa seized El Bur town, some 150
kilometres south of the Ethiopian border, after a brief
firefight.

"Ethiopian troops have taken positions inside and outside
the town, but most of the residents fled before they arrived,"
said Abdukadir Sahal, a resident.

The loss of the town tightens the net on the hardline
Shebab, who are facing attacks on multiple fronts by regional
armies.

"There was brief exchange of gunfire on the outskirts of
town but Al-Shebab fled... there are Ethiopian troops with
armoured trucks, pulling heavy artillery weapons," Sahal
added.

"There was no fighting inside El Bur, but Al-Shabab
fighters are not far away," said Ahmednur Fodade, another
resident.

Ethiopian soldiers in battle trucks began the advance on
El Bur at the weekend, bolstering allied fighters from Ahlu
Sunna at the central Somali town of Dhusamareb, before pushing on some 100 kilometres south.

El Bur is the fourth Shebab stronghold to be seized by
the Ethiopian forces, who deployed into lawless Somalia in
November, after Kenya also sent troops into southern Somalia
to battle the ruthless militia.

The Shebab also abandoned bases in the capital Mogadishu
in August after their four-year bloody insurgency failed to
topple the Western-backed Somali government, protected by a
contingent of African Union troops.

The AU force is currently made up of some 10,000 soldiers
from Burundi, Djibouti and Uganda, while Kenyan troops are due
to integrate into the force.

However, while the Shebab have lost key towns recently,
they still remain a serious threat, especially as they
continue a bloody campaign of suicide and mortar attacks.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 12:29

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