(InformAfrica) — Somalia’s capital has been “fully liberated” from Islamist Shebab rebels, the country’s president said on Saturday.
“Mogadishu has been fully liberated from the enemy, and the rest of the country will soon be liberated too,” Sharif Sheikh Ahmed told reporters.
The Al-Qaeda affiliated Shebab insurgents abandoned several key positions in Mogadishu overnight, that were then taken over by government troops.
“We are very happy — the fruits of bloodshed and the wars that we fought against the rebels are finally attained,” Ahmed said.
African Union-backed government troops have been battling Shebab rebels in Mogadishu in an offensive to secure aid delivery routes for victims of the drought threatening some 12 million people in Somalia and other Horn of Africa countries.
“We have two enemies to fight – one of them is the Shebab, while the other is those who try to rob the people,” the president said.
“We will not tolerate looting, and anyone found committing such a crime will be brought to justice.”
Lawless Somalia is awash with rival militia factions. On Friday, food aid being handed out to famine victims in Mogadishu was looted by gunmen, who killed five people.
Until Saturday morning, government and AU troops controlled just over half of Mogadishu, including the airport and port, while the Shebab controlled the city’s north-east.
“The enemy is defeated, they pulled out of Mogadishu — and we will fight them to eliminate them from the rest of the country,” Somalia’s prime minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali said.
Shebab fighters are waging a bloody campaign to overthrow the country’s Western-backed transitional government, and control large areas of the south and centre of the country.
Major Paddy Ankunda, a spokesman for the AU’s AMISOM force in Somalia, said: “We’re getting reports that they have pulled out from all their positions. We are still verifying.
“We’re very very cautious because it could be a trap.”
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