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Reports from Hiiraan region in central Somalia indicate that al-Shabaab insurgents on Monday seized the second district as a large number of al-Shabaab fighters entered Mahaas district shortly after troops from Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and pro-government moderate Islamic militias of Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa (ASWJ) retreated from the district.
Local residents and ASWJ officials confirmed the news to Somalia Report and the locals claim that at least ten al-Shabaab military vehicles with hundreds of fighters entered Mahaas.
“I can confirm to you that al-Shabaab is controlling Mahaas district. Ahlu Sunna and the government forces pulled out and we don’t know where they are headed,” Nur Ahmed, a resident in Mahaas told Somalia Report. “Al-Shabaab officials spoke to the residents and told them to calm down, but they entered several houses and arrested local residents, including elders.”
Abdiwali Hassan Jim’ale, a TFG officer in Hiiraan region, also confirmed that their troops vacated Mahaas, and citied military strategy for the reason.
“Our troops are not inside Mahaas district, but they are on the outskirts of Mahaas. We deserted the city for tactical reasons and we will be back there as soon as possible,” he told Somalia Report.
Meanwhile, on Sunday morning al-Shabaab fighters seized Elbur district in Galgadud region after Ethiopian and ASWJ forces vacated the district.
An eye witness in Elbur district told Somalia Report the insurgents based themselves in the police station, the Elbur administration building and other main military bases in the area. Also the locals stated that al-Shabaab killed at least four people in the district.
“The tension is very high and the people are scared, al-Shabaab fighters are firing bullets. They killed at least four people; two of them were beheaded after the militants accusing them of having relations with Ahlusunna Wal Jamaa. Dozens of people were arrested,” a resident in Elbur told Somalia Report on the condition of anonymity.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage spoke to pro-al-Shabaab media and claimed they defeated the Ethiopians and ASWJ in Elbur, vowing that they will soon recapture the entire of the region.
“Their flee from Elbur proves that the infidels and their followers were defeated. Since they entered the district, the Mujahideen inflicted them with unforgettable loses. We cut all the roads and they couldn’t receive food, ammunition or the other equipment they needed. This is the start of conservative victories that we are expecting,” he said.
The lose of Elbur and Mahaas districts is a huge setback for the TFG and their allied forces who are attempting to eradicate the al-Qaeda linked militias from Somalia.