Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The big catch for peace in Somalia.

By Guled Mohamed

Mogadishu, February 23 – AMISOM peacekeepers from Burundi and Somali government forces have jointly captured three strategic locations in northwestern Mogadishu in a major operation that has startled Al-Shabaab in the latest of many losses for the anti-peace elements in the going battles for the control of the troubled capital city of Somalia.

The joint operation swiftly carried out early on Wednesday morning resulted in the capture of the imposing former Defence headquarters building locally known as Gashaandiga, a former milk factory and the former Senior Officer club also known as Shirkole Officiale. The imposing former Defence headquarters building served as the main Al-Shabaab operational and logistical hub where they planned their inhuman attacks.

“Government troops supported by AU Peacekeepers have this morning captured tactical headquarters of the extremist insurgents. Troops from AMISOM’s Burundi contingent helped Somali National Forces take the former Ministry of Defence (Gaashaandhigga), which the extremists have been using as a logistical and operational base. They also captured the former Milk Factory and the Military Officers Club (Shirkole Officiale) in a major advance in the northwestern part of the city,” said a statement from the Somalia Ministry of Information.

The three strategic positions are located in Hodan district along the main road used by Al-Shabaab from their main Daynile base further in the northwest of the capital Mogadishu. The Defence headquarters is located on a hill top directly overlooking the city of Mogadishu and which made it easy for the extremist to hull mortars towards the densely populated areas of the sea side city controlled by the government with help from African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi.

Shirkole Officiale is directly adjacent to the expansive Bakara market which is another hideout for the extremist known to use the population as a human shield in their bloody quest to unnecessarily shed more blood in an unholy war that is opposed by majority of the people in Mogadishu where more civilians than combatants die in the almost daily deadly gun duels.

“Today’s operation is meant to create more security and space for the peace-loving population of Mogadishu. The 3 captured locations are very strategic spots and a major loss for the extremists. The joint operation encountered minimal resistances by the extremists just like recent successes AMISOM and the government has had in Wardhigley district where we exposed huge tunnels dug by the opposition forces and where they lost many fighters including 6 foreign militants,” AMISOM Spokesman Major Ba-Hoku Barigye said.

Speaking from the captured positions Colonel Floribert Biyereke, the Burundi Contingent Public Information Officer said the extremists were still firing from a distance towards the Somali-Burundian forces in a futile attempt to unsettle the victorious joint forces.

“As you can hear there is still fighting going on as the insurgents are firing towards our newest locations we have jointly captured with Somali forces and which are Gashandiga, milk factory and Shirkole officiale. We are now strengthening our defenses and we will not be deterred by their desperate attempts to unsettle us. Our expansion is always for the good of the afflicted Somali population because whichever locations AMISOM occupies we normally open a hospital and also shares our little food and water with the suffering population. The operation was a success and we wish to thank our Somali brothers for their continued support,” Colonel Biyereke said as sounds of bullets and heavy explosion reverberated in the background.

The latest military success by the government and peacekeepers from Burundi has been welcomed by the war-weary residents of Mogadishu many of who have been forced by the ongoing battles to flee their homes in their tens of thousands and to live in squalid camps across the bullet-pocked city.

“This is a big catch for peace in Mogadishu and Somalia. I am so happy to hear that government forces and AMISOM peacekeepers have taken over Gashaandiga, Shirkole officiale and the former milk factory. This is really good news for us because it means these areas will be peaceful and my clients can now access my shop. Peace is what we always yearn for and I wish to urge our troops and our friends from AMISOM to kick out these bloodletting Al-Shabab extremists who have no intention to bring peace but only chaos and death to our people,” shopkeeper Salah Ali said whose shop is located in Hodan district close to the captured locations.