Somali forces seize key coastal towns from al-Shabab

Harardhere (Caasimada Online) – In a significant development for the Somali government, government forces have successfully captured the towns of Harardhere and Galcad from the al-Shabab militant group. 

Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur announced that government forces and local fighters were able to seize the towns without resistance, as the militants fled before the operation.

The Minister said on state-owned television that “Haradhere and Galcad towns have been taken from the hands of the al-Shabab Kharijites,” Nur said. ” Al-Shabab is overpowered and gone. We will also liberate the remaining towns soon.”

Harardhere, a key coastal town, and former pirate hub, was the most strategically important town in Galmudug still under al-Shabab control. The city had been a major base for pirates hijacking merchant ships until 2011 but was later taken over by al-Shabab. 

The capture of Harardhere and Galcad, located approximately 375 kilometers north of Mogadishu, is a clear indication that the government-led offensive against al-Shabab in central Somalia is progressing successfully.

The government has reported significant progress in its operations against al-Shabab, with hundreds of militants killed and numerous localities captured in neighboring Hirshabelle state since the offensive began in August. 

Additionally, the government has also reported shutting down hundreds of bank and mobile money accounts believed to be linked to al-Shabab, to disrupt the group’s revenue-generation activities.

Despite these successes, al-Shabab continues retaliating with suicide bombings and retaliatory attacks. 

A suicide car bombing in the village of Halgan on Monday resulted in the death of Jamal Ahmed Jama, a captain in the local security forces. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.

The group said in a statement that it has inflicted “heavy losses” to the government through other suicide bombings over the weekend. 

Al-Shabab was behind three explosions in Hiran regions. In Bulobarde and Jalalaqsi towns, they have killed 13 people and injured over 50 others on Saturday, according to local officials. On January 4th, two explosions from vehicle-borne explosive devices in Mahaas town resulted in the deaths of over 20 people, the majority of them being civilians.

While some experts have warned that al-Shabab is not yet defeated, the capture of Harardhere and Galcad represents a major setback for the group and a significant victory for the Somali government. 

The government will now focus on facilitating the return of residents to the towns, which civilians largely abandoned due to al-Shabab’s forced displacement prior to the arrival of government troops.

Al Shabab’s spokesperson could not immediately be reached for comment. 

Since launching the major offensive last August, the government and allied clan militias have driven out the extremists from swathes of territory in central Somalia. 

Some officials believe that the recent successes against al-Shabab have put the group on the brink of defeat. However, experts warn that the group has a track record of adapting to military pressure.