Al-Shabab Rebels Withdraw from Mogadishu

Al-Shabab appears to be weakened by AMISOM offensive combined by famine, migration and luck of support


Abdirahman Omar Osman, a government spokesman, said on Saturday that al-Shabab was retreating from the city, calling it a “golden victory for the Somali people“.

He said government forces have begun deploying cautiously in the pockets of the city previously under al-Shabab control. The government is urging city residents who fled their homes to return, promising the military will spare no effort in securing their areas.

Ali Mohamed Rage, an al-Shabab spokesperson, told a local radio station that the withdrawal was aimed to enable a counter-attack, saying there would be no pull out from other regions of southern Somalia.

He insisted that the move is not a retreat, but rather a change of military tactics toward guerrilla warfare.

The extent of the withdrawal or what it meant was not immediately clear, but Mogadishu residents reported on Saturday al-Shabab fighters leaving their positions overnight in the city. Witnesses said convoys of al-Shabab vehicles – open-top 4x4s mounted with machine guns – headed south from Mogadishu towards the al-Shabaab-controlled town of Baidoa, 250km southwest of the capital.

Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste visited a former al-Shabab building in Mogadishu, which he described as “nothing more than an abandoned shell with a few bits of grafitti around it”.

“It sounds like they are planning to continue fighting as a guerrilla force,” our correspondent said. “Though it appears weakened, it may still have the capacity to wage a guerrilla campaign here, and that would be a very difficult thing fo rthe African Union troops and the government to defend against.”

The UN has declared a famine in five areas of Somalia, which has had no functioning government for 20 years. Al-Shabab, which controls much of the south of the country – where the famine is most severe – says the UN is exaggerating the humanitarian crisis, and has banned most aid groups from operating there.

But al-Shabab has been unable to stem the flow of tens of thousands of hungry people moving out of their areas of control in search of food.

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