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UPDATE: Allied forces arrest 10 al-Shabaab suspects hiding in Baidoa and impose a curfew, restricting the movement of residents, during operations to secure the town.
Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and Ethiopian troops today seized one of the most strategic towns in southern Somalia's Bay region after al-Shabaab vacated the area early on Tuesday, according to TFG officials and local residents.
TFG forces are in full control of Baidoa and started massive security operations after arriving in the afternoon with a large number of forces, tanks and vehicles. As of 6:50pm local time, the city is calm, according to residents.
“TFG and Ethiopian forces are now based at the police stations, Adc building, Dr Ayub stadium and other strategic areas in the town,” Dahirow Garow, a local resident in Baidoa, told Somalia Report.
TFG chairman in Bay region, Abdifatah Gesey, confirmed TFG and Ethiopians entered the city and are in the process of securing it.
“We concluded four years of colonization by al-Shabaab. You can’t imagine how happy the people are after our troops seized the town. Now we are investigating if there is any hidden explosive devices in the town and the police are securing amnesty for those who surrender,” he told Somalia Report.
“We are telling the people not to worry and come out to welcome the national forces. Every group will come to an end and today the time of al-Shabaab in Bay region is over,” he added.
The chairman also spoke to local media and urged local residents to stay calm.
"TFG forces are in the former Baidoa Police station while Ethiopian troops are in Buulo Jameeco village in Baidoa to ensure the security. We want to advise Baidoa residents to remain calm and stop living in fear because we will keep the enemy from returning. I also warn TFG soldiers not to do anything that can lead to insecurity like robbing the local population. Those who do will be severely punished," said Mr. Gesey.
Abdihakim, a resident of Baidoa told Somalia Report, "The TFG and allied forces seized the city at 3:30pm after insurgents group al-Shabaab vacated. The city is quiet now, but residents are fearful that fighting might begin because al-Shabaab vowed to launch attacks on the city."
On Tuesday afternoon TFG and Ethiopian forces captured Berdale district and immediately left Berdale heading to Baidoa.
Al-Shabaab militias captured Baidoa in January 2008 when senior TFG officials and troops fled for Mogadishu after Ethiopian forces withdrew from Somalia. In March of last year, the city was used as a training base for militants.
Al-Shabaab today admitted losing Baidoa, the headquarters of senior al-Shabaab leader Sheikh Mukhtar Robow (Abu Mansour).
This will be the second major town that al-Shabaab lost within three months after Ethiopians, TFG troops, pro-government Islamic moderate militias of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) and Shabelle Valley Adminstration (SVA) took control of Beledeweyne late December.
Sources tells that al-Shabaab went after they vacated their fighters in Baidoa city to Iidaale and and Diinsor district, however Somalia Report could not independently verify these claims.