MOGADISHU — Fresh fighting broke out in Mogadishu on Friday as pro-government forces and their African Union backers continued an offensive against Al Qaeda-linked Shebab Islamists, sources said.
“Transitional government (TFG) forces, backed by AMISOM tanks, advanced on several key positions held by the Shebab in southern Mogadishu, in Holwadag and Wardhigley districts,” Mohamed Adan, a colonel on the government side told AFP.
“The enemy had to evacuate several of its positions. The aim of this offensive is to chase Al Qaeda and its allies out of the country. The enemy is losing ground,” Adan said.
The TFG and AMISOM, made up of 8,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops, claim to have taken several key Shebab positions in the southwest of the capital, including the former defence ministry and a former milk factory.
These advances, if they are confirmed, would represent significant progress for the Somali government forces, normally confined to a perimeter around the institutions of the fragile transitional government.
The Shebab for their part have been denying these advances for several days. They have shown journalists the bodies of at least seven AMISOM soldiers as well as seized military equipment and a Ugandan soldier taken prisoner.
Over the past week AMISOM has admitted losing eight of its men, among them three Burundians. There has been no indication as to casualties in the ranks of the Shebab but around 40 civilians have been killed, mostly by artillery fire.
Residents said the most intense fighting Friday morning was on Wadnaha road, a key position where the insurgents normally have their bases.
“We cannot leave our houses today. The fighting is too violent. Government soldiers are attacking the insurgents near Folorensa crossroads. For the moment we don’t know who is in control of that area,” Naimo Isak told AFP by phone.
There is no casualty estimate so far for Friday’s fighting, which follows heavy fighting on Wednesday and over the weekend.