Al-Shabaab militants withdraw from Somali capital

August 7th, 2011 - 12:22 am ICT by BNO News  

MOGADISHU (BNO NEWS) — The Somali militant group Al-Shabaab on Saturday retreated from the country’s war-ravaged capital following fierce clashes with government forces and their allies.

Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed said Al-Shabaab, which controls much of southern Somalia, retreated from Mogadishu after heavy fighting early Saturday with government and African Union forces. “Al-Shabaab and al Qaida are a menace to Somalia and it is happy news that we defeated them in Mogadishu,” the president told reporters, according to CNN.

He also warned of possible suicide bombings and advised Mogadishu residents not to rush to areas vacated by Al-Shabaab fighters, saying the group may have booby-trapped the area.

Al-Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage confirmed the fighters left the city but said the fighting was hardly over.

“The reasons we withdrew from Mogadishu is we have made changes in our tactics of war,” he told the group’s radio station, Andalus, as quoted by CNN. “We withdrew because we want to save lives of the poor civilians but we will launch operations against government (and African Union) forces in the coming hours.”

Some believe the Islamists withdrew because of funding woes and drought-related issues. The war-ravaged Horn of African country is experiencing severe droughts and the United Nations has already declared famine in five areas, including Mogadishu.

In early July, Al-Shabaab announced that they were lifting a ban on international and local aid agencies in order to assist the drought affected people. The group imposed the ban in 2009, alleging that foreign aid agencies are pro-Somalia government.

The United Nations humanitarian agency, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, estimated that 10 million people across the Horn of Africa are facing a severe food crisis following a prolonged drought in the region.

Al-Shabaab was the militant wing of the Somali Council of Islamic Courts that took over most of southern Somalia in the second half of 2006. Despite efforts from the Somali and Ethiopian government, the group has continued its violent insurgency in southern and central Somalia.

In addition, the al Qaida-linked group was likely responsible for a wave of five coordinated suicide car bombings in October 2008 that simultaneously hit targets in two cities in northern Somalia, killing at least 26 people and injuring 29 others. Al-Shabaab has been accused of conducting the twin suicide bombings in Kampala, Uganda, on July 11, 2010, that killed more than 70 people.

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