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Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) forces are preparing for an assault on Bal'ad (Balcad), 36 kilometers northeast of the capital city of Mogadishu. This marks their second major operation as part of Operation Free Shabelle after flushing al-Shabaab out of Afgoye on May 25th of this year. Their military operation began yesterday afternoon and is currently ongoing.
Several military vehicles accompanied with tanks moved from the Maslah military camp in Mogadishu while another group moved from the town of Daynille. The allied forces are at Garas-Bintow, 9 kilometers from Bal'ad, preparing to capture the town in a few hours.
Meanwhile tensions are high in the town and al-Shabaab war vehicles have been seen patrolling throughout Bal'ad.
“I saw many tanks and war vehicles moving down the road between the town and Mogadishu yesterday afternoon. Today at around 6:40 am local time (0440 GMT) there were groups of tanks along with soldiers moving along the side of the road on foot. I saw big vehicles pulling heavy weapons moving slowly coming out of the camp,” Ahmed Guled, a local resident, told Somalia Report.
Samantar Warsame, a TFG commander, told Somalia Report that their soldiers, supported by the AMISOM troops, are prepared and they had not encountered any opposition from al-Shabaab since they started their troop movements yesterday.
“Our Somali soldiers, along with our AMISOM brothers, are in the process of freeing the people of Bal'ad from the brutal rule of al-Shabaab. We began a major troop movement yesterday afternoon along two routes, one from Daynille and the other one from the Maslah military camp based out of Mogadishu. We have not clashed with the al-Shabaab militia along the a highway between the two towns. Last night our soldiers stopped at Gars Bintow and we want to free the people of Bal'ad from al-Shabaab in a few hours,” Commander Samantar said.
Somalia Report also contacted a resident of Balad who wished to remain anonymous out of fears for his security.
“The tension in Bal'ad is very high, and we fear heavy fighting is coming as we heard that the TFG and her allies are near to entering the town. The al-Shabaab war vehicles are moving in and out of the town. They announced yesterday that they will defend the town and they will not withdraw from Bal'ad. Many people already are packed and ready to flee, but people fear al-Shabaab won't let people leave the town. The people are discussing how the war will go and wonder whether al-Shabaab will withdraw or not,” he said.
Key Dates of Operation Free Shabelle (2012)
Feb 13 - TFG Asks Afgoye Residents to Vacate Area
Feb 25 - Al-Shabaab Closes Schools in Afgoye
Feb 29 - Airstrikes Hit Afgoye
May 22 - TFG Launches Operation Free Shabelle, Troops Nearing Afgoye
May 25 - TFG and AMISOM Take Control of Afgoye
May 29 - Al-Shabaab Ambushes President Sharif's Convoy in Afgoye
May 30 - Somalia Report Visits Afgoye
May 31 - Al-Shabaab Launches Attack on Afgoye
June 11 - Radio Andalus Claims Second Ambush on President Sharif's Convoy in Afgoye