Friday, February 24, 2012

Al-Shabaab foreign fighters flee Somalia

Kenyan troops heading to Amuma border entry point to flush out al Shabaab militants.

Photo/WILLIAM OERI/NATION Kenyan troops heading to Amuma border entry point to flush out al Shabaab militants.  

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF Nation Correspondent, Somalia

Foreign fighters in the Al-Shabaab rebel group are fleeing Somalia in droves.

Reports said up to eight boats had docked at Kismayu port in the last 48 hours to ferry the fighters, locally known as al-Mujahedeen al-Muhajereen (migrant jihadists) to Yemen.

The foreigners are reckoned to have been in Somalia to fight alongside Al-Shabaab militants battling the forces of the Transitional Federal Government and its supporters such as Amisom peacekeepers, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops.

Sources in Kismayu, which is 500 km south of Mogadishu, say the boats had carried at least 100 jihadists destined for Yemen, across the Gulf of Aden.

Hundreds of fighters fled the central city of Baidoa this week after it was captured by Ethiopian troops.

Near Mogadishu, AU troops are also on the offensive against the rebels.

An air strike was launched at around K60 Area in Lower Shabelle region, about 60 km south of Mogadishu on Friday.

The raid targeted a four-wheel-drive vehicle carrying high ranking Al-Shabaab officials.

Unconfirmed reports said the targets could have been foreign jihadists. Al-Shabaab, a radical Islamist group, recently merged with Al-Qaeda.

In London, Somali Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, who attended the Lancaster House conference on Somalia on Thursday, urged the international community to help eliminate Al-Shabaab and Al-Qeada through air raids.

“We welcome targeted air strikes against Al-Qaeda and Al-Shabaab,” said the premier at the convention that attracted representatives from over 50 countries and international organisations.

Mr Ali added that Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda had been weakened and he wanted them eliminated. In Mogadishu, Major General Fred Mugisha, the Commander of Amisom peacekeepers promised on Thursday that his force would remain in Somalia until Al-Shabaab and Al-Qaeda were defeated. Amisom would also strengthen the Somali forces.

“Amisom will continue training Somali forces,” said Maj-Gen Mugisha. His remarks came after news that the UN Security Council had approved the expansion of the AU mission in Somalia to 17,700 troops.

In addition, Gen Mugisha said that Kenyan forces will join Amisom while Ethiopian troops helping the pro-government forces will not be in Somalia for long.

“The Ethiopian troops will go back after offering help to the transitional government,” said the commander.

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