A Somali federal government soldier and an African union peacekeeper patrol a street of Mogadishu on July 27, 2014, during a security operation. (PHOTO / AFP)
MOGADISHU – The African Union forces and the Somali National Army (SNA) have intensified joint military operations against al-Shabab fighters in Hirshabelle State, central Somalia, ahead of the withdrawal of some 2,000 troops by the end of June.
ATMIS Sector Four Commander Hassan Djama Farah attributed the successes against the al-Shabab extremist group to the broad knowledge of the local terrain by SNA forces and enhanced information sharing by the local communities.
Djama said the close collaboration forged with SNA and local communities has played a pivotal role in liberating areas that were formerly under terrorist control.
The government forces have intensified their attacks against al-Shabab since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared an all-out war against the militants in August 2022
"Our operations could not be successful without the significant role of SNA forces, they are friendly with the local communities who mostly relay reliable and timely tip-offs to our troops," he said in a statement issued in Beledweyne town Sunday.
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The fight against al-Shabab extremists has become a top priority for both ATMIS and the Somali government as the drawdown of troops enters a critical phase.
The AU mission said it has stepped up preparations for the withdrawal of 2,000 soldiers by June 30 from Somalia.
Mohamed Omar Ibaar, the SNA commander of the 5th Battalion of the 27th Division, expressed confidence that the Somali security forces were ready to take over full security responsibilities once ATMIS forces exit.
"We definitely have acquired the necessary skills and experience to fully provide security in Beledweyne and its environs," Omar said.
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Under ATMIS sectorization, Sector Four is manned by a combined force of Ethiopian and Djibouti troops, whose operational headquarters is based in Beletweyne town, 342 km northwest of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.
Beletweyne, which is located along the main supply route connecting to Bulo-Burto, Jowhar, and Mogadishu, was the epicenter of al-Shabab activities before they were flushed out by the joint forces.
The government forces have intensified their attacks against al-Shabab since President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud declared an all-out war against the militants in August 2022.