Following Shabaab’s second suicide assault in Beledweyne in a month on Nov. 19, security services, including AMISOM, the African Union peacekeeping mission, and Somali government troops, have ramped up operations near the city.
Although four Djiboutian members of AMISOM were killed in Shabaab’s suicide assault, Djiboutian President Ismael Omar Guelleh has refused to withdraw the 1,000 troops his country has committed to AMISOM, saying: “Djibouti’s troops will be in Somalia to help their Somali brothers and they will not change their decision, every soldier killed in there we pray Allah to reward him a Jannah [heaven].”
AMISOM and Somali troops have begun operations outside of Beledweyne as well. They have reportedly conducted security operations in Baragta Elow, Afar Irdod, and other villages 30 kilometers from Beledweyne; and on Sunday, they took the towns of Baardheere and Raangaab without encountering any resistance. Having secured the regions to Beledweyne’s east and west, the forces are now marching south to the town of Bulobarde, the second largest town in the region and believed to be a key Shabaab stronghold.
Despite a military offensive led by the African Union and backed by the US that began in 2011, Shabaab still controls vast areas of southern and central Somalia. During the offensive, Shabaab was driven from major cities and towns such as Mogadishu, Kismayo, and Baidoa, but towns such as Bulobarde and Barawe remain under the terror group’s control. The group has weathered the Ethiopian invasion, which began in December 2006 and ousted its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union. More than six years later, Shabaab remains a capable force in southern Somalia and an integral part of al Qaeda’s global network.
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