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Reports from Hiiraan region in central Somalia indicate that a heavy fighting between Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Shabelle valley Administration (SVA) backed by Ethiopian troops against Somali’s al-Qaeda linked group of al-Shabaab took place in Beledweyne district on Saturday morning.
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces, supported by Ethiopian troops, assaulted al-Shabaab positions the town of Beledweyne, the capital of Hiraan region in southern Somalia. Local sources confirmed to Somalia Report that while fighting is continuing, al-Shabaab has been forced out and Beledweyne is now under TFG control. TFG and Ethiopian forces have taken control of strategic locations, including al-Shabaab bases in Jante-Kun-Dishe and Ugaas Kalif Airport in the outskirts of Beledweyne, which forced the insurgent to flee.
Hassan Gabow, a resident in Elgal, told Somalia Report that he saw Ethiopian troops and Somali soldiers storm the town.
“The fighting started about 6:30am of local time (300GMT) and both sides used heavy gunfire including mortars,” Mo’alim Abdilatif in Beledweyne told Somalia report. “Before the fighting the government forces shelled Beledweyne, which caused the death of two civilians.”
SVA spokesman Mohamed Nur Aga-jof Dabaashe claimed that they totally seized Beledweyne and vowed that they will eliminate al-Shabaab from the region. “Early of this morning our forces entered Beledweyne after the terrorist run away, the eagerly awaited operation started and will continue till we eradicate the extremist from Hiiraan region,” he said. “We killed more than 20 fighters from al-Shabaab, and one of our soldiers was injured, now we are in full control of the district,” he added.
“We are very happy that the people of Beledweyne are free from the extremist group, the community of Hiiraan are the most suffered of the consequences of al-Shabaab,” an elder from Hiiraan, Sheikh Ali Hassan Fidow, told Somalia Report.
Al-Shabaab militants have retreated, and are said to be reinforcing numbers. During the battle, al-Shabaab released over 80 prisoners in the town. No immediate comments available from al-Shabaab officers, but pro-al-Shabaab radio station briefly reported, “the Mujahideen vacated Beledweyne for tactical reasons.”
Hiiraan is a strategic region located in central Somalia which connects the southern and northern regions of Somalia. It also is one of the five regions in Somalia that border with Ethiopia.
The pro-government militias of Ahlusunna Waljamaa (ASWJ), SVA and TFG control parts of the region, while al-Shabaab insurgents control most of the regional districts, including Bulu-burde, Jalalaqsi, Mahaas and Buq-aqable.