Abdirahman Omar Osman, a government spokesman, said on Saturday that al-Shabab was retreating from the city, calling it a “golden victory for the Somali people“.
He said government forces have begun deploying cautiously in the pockets of the city previously under al-Shabab control. The government is urging city residents who fled their homes to return, promising the military will spare no effort in securing their areas.
Ali Mohamed Rage, an al-Shabab spokesperson, told a local radio station that the withdrawal was aimed to enable a counter-attack, saying there would be no pull out from other regions of southern Somalia.
He insisted that the move is not a retreat, but rather a change of military tactics toward guerrilla warfare.
The extent of the withdrawal or what it meant was not immediately clear, but Mogadishu residents reported on Saturday al-Shabab fighters leaving their positions overnight in the city. Witnesses said convoys of al-Shabab vehicles – open-top 4x4s mounted with machine guns – headed south from Mogadishu towards the al-Shabaab-controlled town of Baidoa, 250km southwest of the capital.
Al Jazeera’s Peter Greste visited a former al-Shabab building in Mogadishu, which he described as “nothing more than an abandoned shell with a few bits of grafitti around it”.
“It sounds like they are planning to continue fighting as a guerrilla force,” our correspondent said. “Though it appears weakened, it may still have the capacity to wage a guerrilla campaign here, and that would be a very difficult thing fo rthe African Union troops and the government to defend against.”
The UN has declared a famine in five areas of Somalia, which has had no functioning government for 20 years. Al-Shabab, which controls much of the south of the country – where the famine is most severe – says the UN is exaggerating the humanitarian crisis, and has banned most aid groups from operating there.
But al-Shabab has been unable to stem the flow of tens of thousands of hungry people moving out of their areas of control in search of food.
To Read more on the story, visit the link HERE