On patrol with the Somali National Army
The Islamist militant group al-Shabaab has retreated from the Somali capital but vows to wage a guerrilla war against the African Union mission sent in to bolster government troops. FRANCE 24 joined a Somali army patrol in Mogadishu.
It has been 10 days since the Islamist militant group al-Shabaab withdrew its insurgents from Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, in the face of the African Union Mission in Somalia’s (AMISOM) superior firepower.
The streets of the war-shattered capital are now patrolled by AMISOM troops as well as regular soldiers from the Somali National Army.
Al Shabaab – or Harakat al Shabaab al Mujahideen, as it calls itself – is an al Qaeda-linked group that controls much of central and southern Somalia. Almost 40% of Mogadishu was under the insurgents’ control before they announced their retreat from the Somali capital on August 5. But even now there is a lingering al-Shabaab presence in the capital, and the group has warned that it will start an Afghanistan-style guerrilla campaign against AMISOM.
FRANCE 24 correspondent James André accompanied a Somali National Army patrol into districts of the city formerly held by al-Shabaab fighters. At the north-eastern edges of Mogadishu, an outpost holds the front line against the militia.
General Dagho Badan, who is the army’s second-in-command and in charge of all the troops on the ground in the capital, admitted that the militia was still present.
“The enemy wouldn’t be able to stop us if we decided to move on them,” he told André. “But I have ordered the men to stay here because there is still an enemy presence behind us that needs to be cleaned up before we can attack.”
The city tour continued to the stadium, guarded by a handful of soldiers and a tank, which was once the site of executions and public amputations conducted by al Shabaab.
Nearby, soldiers have taken over a former al-Shabaab hospital, which wasn’t so much captured by the Somali army as simply abandoned by the militia.
Although they are less visible now, al-Shabaab militants are never far away, and the threat of a return to chaos in the capital of the famine-stricken country is ever-present.
“You have to do what you have to do,” General Badan said. “I want to rid this country of al-Shabaab, and they need to capture me.”