Al Jazeera English reports that “violence has escalated [in Mogadishu] over the past month.” Battles on Sunday between al Shabab and forces for the Transitional Federal Government claimed eight lives (see another estimate here), and on Monday at least five more died, contributing to a recent spate of clashes that has killed twenty and wounded seventy. Typically the ongoing violence yields stalemate, but this time the TFG claims it has the edge:
A statement Monday from the Ministry of Information said government and AU troops have secured a hotel, a former military hospital and a public square, among other places within the last few days. It said the positions are close to the Bakara market, a stronghold of militant group al-Shabab.
The statement also mentioned reports of a rift within al-Shabab’s leadership. The government said the group’s second-in-command, Muktar Robow, may have withdrawn his fighters from Mogadishu. There has been no comment from al-Shabab.
The government said Robow’s forces suffered the brunt of casualties during the offensive. It said nearly 10 percent of the 2,000 men he deployed in the city were killed.
As with any reportage coming out of Somalia, I would like to see this confirmed from multiple sources. The TFG may have hit bottom and is now on the rebound, but declarations of even small victories could be premature. A cynic might also say that the TFG desperately needs some good news to broadcast now, when it is hoping for additional peacekeepers and for continued outside support. On the other hand, if these reports are true, maybe we will see a real turning point in the battle for Mogadishu, one that puts al Shabab thoroughly on the defensive. What do you think is going on?
Also, check out NPR’s series on the war in Somalia. Part one here.