Somalia: For once, some optimism
The UN beefs up an African Union-led peacekeeper mission and Ethiopian troops take the town of Baidoa, as delegates at a London conference contemplate the future of Somalia.
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In military terms, there are definite signs of progress. Pro-government troops have pushed Al Shabab into retreat. In humanitarian terms, the picture is more mixed. Aid supplies are flowing into areas taken away from Al Shabab, but fighting has sent tens of thousands of families from their homes, adding to an overall 1.5 million population of displaced Somalis.Skip to next paragraph
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AU forces under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) have pushed Al Shabab forces out of Mogadishu entirely, allowing Somali citizens to return to their homes and allowing the government enough security within the city to start providing government services such as policing, schooling, and sanitation services that have been missing for decades.
In the south, Kenyan forces have shifted gears from a full-scale offensive against Al-Shabab positions – particularly its seaport headquarters in Kismayo – toward a more patient “pacification” or “hearts and minds” campaign to secure control over the areas they have already taken from Al Shabab. Kenyan forces entered Somalia on Oct. 16, 2011, after a spate of kidnappings and attacks on Kenyan commercial interests that Kenyan authorities blame on Al Shabab.
“We could move forward and capture towns and territory off Al-Shabab tomorrow, but what would happen?” says Kenyan Lt. Col. Jeff Nyagah, commander of this battle sector, quoted by Agence France Presse.
“Al-Shebab would mingle with the people and attack, so we are doing a pacification operation to ensure they don’t disrupt the gains we have made.”
But in the west, Ethiopian troops and troops loyal to the Somali transitional government have taken key towns of Beledweyne and also Somalia’s third-largest city, Baidoa. The Somali news service, Shabelle, reported today that a massive blast – possibly landmine booby-traps – shook Baidoa after Al Shabab retreated from the town. There have been no reports yet of casualties.
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