Somali troops retreat after Al-Shabab’s deadly raid

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – In a turn of events that could have far-reaching implications for the ongoing conflict in Somalia, government troops were forced to retreat from newly captured territory on Monday.

This withdrawal comes on the heels of one of the most devastating attacks launched by the al-Shabab militant group in the village of Cowsweyne, a base taken over by the government forces on August 22.

According to high-ranking but anonymous officials within the Somali government, the troops retreated from key locations such as El Dheer, Masagaway, Gal’ad, and Budbud.

Major Ismail Abdimalik, a Somali government commander, explained the retreat by noting, “There are small strategic retreats.”

Abdimalik insisted that the withdrawal should not be seen as a sign of weakness but as a tactical decision.

However, other anonymous sources, who were not authorized to speak on the record, said that the brigades suffered heavy losses. One local official described the attack as “painful.”

Claims and counterclaims

While the Somali government has remained reticent about the specifics of the Cowsweyne assault, al-Shabab wasted no time portraying it as a significant victory.

Yusuf Isse Kabakutukade, an al-Shabab official in central Somalia, declared the attack a “historic victory” and admonished Somali government leaders for underestimating the militant group.

According to al-Shabab’s statement, they “overran” the base, killing 178 soldiers and taking prisoners—claims yet to be independently verified.

Contrarily, the state-run Somali National News Agency contended that government forces repelled the attack, destroying the car bombs used in the initial phase of the assault.

However, a video released by al-Shabab seems to contradict this official account, showing multiple casualties on the base.

A prolonged struggle 

Despite this setback, the overall military campaign against al-Shabab shows no signs of abating.

“I think there are some lessons to be learned, but the operations will continue. The determination is there,” commented an unnamed foreign diplomat based in Mogadishu.

Significantly, the Somali brigades still hold the strategically important town of Elbur, captured on August 25.

Major Abdimalik, who led the capture of Elbur, affirmed, “Elbur is calm, the army is clearing it, they are ready to defend themselves.”

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who has been actively encouraging troops from the central Galmudug state regional capital of Dhusamareb, laid out an ambitious five-month plan to eliminate al-Shabab during a town hall meeting on August 17.

In the president’s view, it would be “unacceptable and disrespectful” to allow al-Shabab to retake any areas from which they had been expelled.

However, as al-Shabab militants continue to retreat into the bush to aim for a prolonged guerrilla war, the government’s plan to eradicate them may be easier said than done.

Both sides appear ready for a long struggle, signaling that this war, which has seen both advances and setbacks, is far from over.