AFP) 3 hours ago
MOGADISHU Al-Qaeda-allied Islamist gunmen seized a key town in central
Somalia Tuesday and fired mortar bombs at the presidency in Mogadishu as
Shebab commanders called for more attacks on the government.
Shebab fighters on pickup trucks mounted with machine guns stormed
Dhusamareb town at dawn, driving out the pro-government militia Ahlu Sunna
Wal Jamaa, an Ethiopia-backed force who follow Somalia's traditional Sufi
branch of Islam.
"The mujahedeen fighters stormed the district after attacking it from two
directions early this morning, there was little fighting as the apostate
militia fled the city," Shebab commander Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim said by
"With God's help, we will be advancing onto other districts in the region,"
Dhusamareb is a strategic town in the central Galgadud region controlling a
key road, and its capture marks a notable fight back by the hardline
Shebab, who have pulled out of several key areas in recent months.
Rival armed groups have repeatedly fought over Dhusamareb, controlling it
briefly until fresh attacks root them out.
"Al-Shebab fighters riding on vehicles mounted with guns entered the town
after fighting with the Sufis, the city has now fallen and they are setting
up their base in the police station," said Abdirahman Moalim, an elder in
"Al-Shebab is in full control, the other fighters (Ahlu Sunna) have left,"
said Ahmed Mohamud, another resident.
The town's capture comes as Shebab chief Ahmed Abdi Godane called on
Islamist fighters to renew attacks against the 10,000-strong African Union
force, which props up the weak Western-backed government in the anarchic
"They (AU forces) will continue to face hard hitting guerilla attacks that
will destroy them, just as armies that were more powerful than them were
destroyed," Godane said in a broadcast on the pro-Shebab Radio Al-Andalus.
Godane, who is also known as Abu Zubayr, also called for attacks in the
northern autonomous Puntland region, which is allied to the Western-backed
"Mujahedeen fighters in areas controlled by the apostate Puntland
government must remain unified, you must strengthen your battle fronts
until you ensure the Islamic flag flies over the whole region," he added.
Shebab fighters in the war-torn capital Mogadishu launched a salvo of
mortar bombs near the presidential palace in the early hours of Tuesday,
the second night of bombardment in the area, after attacks Sunday killed
"Mortars were thrown in the area of the presidential palace again, but did
not damage it, and security teams are working around the clock to end this
threat," said AU force spokesman Paddy Ankunda.
The Shebab face increasing pressure from pro-government forces and regional
armies, and last month lost control of their strategic base of Baidoa to
Ethiopian troops, the second major loss in six months after abandoning
fixed bases in capital.
Kenya sent its troops into southern Somalia to fight them in October,
blaming the Shebab for the abductions of several foreigners. Its troops
have now been incorporated into the AU force.
Ethiopian forces entered Somalia a month later in the west, as
international diplomatic, military and relief efforts focus on ending the
conflict in the south.
However, experts warn the Shebab are far from defeated and remain a major
threat, especially now they have in many areas switched to guerrilla
The Shebab and other militia groups have tried to exploit the power vacuum
in Somalia, which has had no effective central authority since plunging
into war 21 years ago when president Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled.