Somalia’s al-Shabaab insurgents have captured a key town close to the border with Kenya. The al Qaeda linked rebels are said to have driven out combatants of Hizbu-Islam, another Islamist group opposing the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia (TFG), to take control of Dhobley, the border town.
Sheikh Hassan Yakoub Ali, a resident, said that Hizbu-Islam fighters had crossed the border into Kenya, adding that the rebels held talks with Kenyan officials. With this victory, al-Shabaab appears to have consolidated its presence in the strategic Juba region.
Sheikh Yakoub said the al-Shabaab officials held talks with Sheikh Hassan Abdullahi Hersi alias Sheikh Hassan Turki at Dhobley.
Despite claims by al-Shabaab officials that Hizbu-Islam combatants fled to the Kenyan side of the border, residents said that the forces of Sheikh Ahmed Madobe disappeared into the bushy areas known as Bada Madoow (black sea).
The residents said that al-Shabaab fighters reached Dhobley, which neighbours the Kenyan town of Liboi, at midday on Saturday. There was no confrontation, they said.
So far, Hizbu-Islam has not issued a statement on the issue. Meanwhile, al-Shabaab leader Sheikh Mukhtar Abdurahman Abu Zubayr has rejected any reconciliation offers by the government.
He said that unless foreign forces leave the country and an Islamic state is established, his movement would intensify attacks. Over 5,000 African Union peacekeepers, made up contingents from Uganda and Somalia, are in the country.