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Somalian forces capture largest al-Shabaab base and important port town

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In their most significant victory since launching an offensive against the terrorist group al-Shabaab last year, the armed forces of Somalia have liberated the port towns of Haradhere and Galcad in central Somalia.

Harardhere, a port town in the Mudug region, Galmudug State, and the nearby town of Galcad were taken on January 14, according to Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur. 

Haradhere was once a base for Somali pirates before al-Shabaab fighters took it over about a decade ago and transformed it into their largest base of operations.

“Haradhere and Galcad districts have been taken from the hands of the al-Shabab terrorists,” Nur said. “This means al-Shabab is overpowered and gone. The remaining towns will also be liberated soon.”

The operation was jointly conducted by Somali National Army (SNA) forces, Puntland Security Force (PSF), and local clan militia.

After the attack by Somali army forces, al-Shabaab fighters were forced to flee to rural areas and took some civilians as hostages.

Two days after capturing Haradhere and Galcad, the joint force captured another al-Shabaab stronghold in Eldheere.

Related: How New Jersey Guardsmen defended their base against an al-Shabaab attack in Somalia

Somalia now has to hold the captured areas

In the past, al-Shabaab fighters had been pushed out of cities and towns and then slowly returned and attacked civilians and government officials. 

The long insurgency against the al-Qaeda-allied terrorist group has severely affected Somalia’s citizens. According to the UN and other relief agencies, more than 200,000 Somalis are facing a severe food shortage; that number is expected to reach 700,000 next year. 

In response to the government’s offensive operations in central Somalia, al-Shabaab launched a deadly attack on a small Somali base at Hawadly, about 37 miles north of the capital Mogadishu on Tuesday. 

The attack started when the insurgents detonated a large car bomb outside the base’s gate and then had fighters try to storm the base. Somali Army chief Odowaa Yusuf Rage said four soldiers and one officer were killed.

“Five members of the army were martyred, including a senior military officer,” Rage said, adding that the army had killed 21 al-Shabaab fighters.

However, other reports indicate that between seven and 11 soldiers killed including the base commander. 

On January 14, in a roadside bombing attack claimed by al-Shabab, eight people were killed in central Somalia, police said. The attack targeted an army checkpoint.

Earlier this month, 35 people were killed, including a family of nine, in twin car bombings in Mahas, a town in south-central Somalia. Witnesses reported that the blast was so powerful that people were injured by flying glass far away from the site of the explosion.

Feature Image: Somali soldiers in Turkey during training in 2019. (Photo by Ayanle/Wikimedia Commons)

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Steve Balestrieri