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The 100 soldiers heading to Baidoa, a strategic town in the Bay region in southwest Somalia, are from Uganda and Burundi, and they will be the first peacekeepers to operate outside the capital of Somalia since the AMISOM mandate began in Somalia in 2007. “Today is a major step forward for AMISOM and for everyone who wants to see peace in Somalia,” AMISOM Deputy Force Commander General Audace Nduwumunsi said in a statement. He added, “following hot on the heels of the UN’s authorization of an enlarged AMISOM force in February, this deployment is the sharp end of the spear that will be driven into the heart of those territories controlled by the al-Qaeda-backed extremists.”
According to the statement, this deployment represents the first in a series of phases to expand AMISOM operations outside the capital. The AU has made it clear that these AMISOM forces will be part of a strategy which will clear all the regions of Somalia from al-Shabaab presence. 2500 troops will be based in Baidoa as well as Beledweyne, where al-Shabaab were forced out from at the end of 2011.
The AMISOM forces in Somalia are from Kenya, Uganda, Djibouti and Burundi, while there is hope that Sierra Leone soldiers will also arrive very soon.
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) officials in the Bay region were contacted by Somalia Report, but refused comment at this time, perhaps viewing the deployment as a sensitive security matter.
Al-Shabaab Retreat from Burhakaba
Reports from the Burhakaba district of Bay region indicate that al-Shabaab fighters have retreated from the district after Ethiopian and TFG forces arrived nearby.
An eyewitness in Burhakaba told Somalia Report that al-Shabaab fighters with their fighting vehicles left the district early on Wednesday. “The situation is very tense, the militants are headed to the northern side of the district and I can’t tell you were they are going,” Abdukadir Mumin, one of the residents in Burhakaba told Somalia Report. “I heard that the Ethiopian and TFG forces are in Daynjunay village, not far from Burhakaba, and preparing to take the district as soon,” he added.
Al-Shabaab official haven’t yet commented about the evacuation of Burhakaba district. If the Ethiopian forces capture Burhakaba, it will become the third district captured by the Ethiopian and TFG forces from al-Shabaab in Bay region, after Baidoa and Bardale.