Conflicting reports are coming out of the military situation in Mogadishu, thanks to shameless propaganda methods being put into motion by the warring parties and partisan Somali news websites. Both sides are claiming major victory and the total defeat of its enemy. If that is the case why are we still seeing fighting?
The truth is, AMISOM is firmly in control of a part of the Defence Ministry- which by the way was not a ‘major’ base of Al-Shabab’s. It was just a concrete building that all kinds of people- shabab and civilians-used to hide in from shelling.Its importance lies in the fact that it is 1 kilometre north of Jalle Siyad Military Academy which has been occupied by AMISOM for the past 3 years.The building’s strategic importance lies in its proximity to the Shabab sand road that goes to the Celasha Biyaha and beyond to Southern Somalia where Shabab get most of their recruits from.
Al-Shabab sometimes used the Defence Ministry building to shoot snipers at the AMISOM base, but that was less and less possible nowadays because AMISOM put heavy calibre weapons at the rooftop of their base and were using that to suppress any shooting from the Defence Ministry building.
Sources tell me that the AMISOM units that are now in the Defence Ministry have been cut off by Shabab and can not get supplies and reinforcements to relieve them. Since the Shabab have cut off the road and barricaded it, no military vehicles or Tanks (Shabab’s greatest enemy) have been able to join them. AMISOM originally captured the Defence Ministry by foot in the hundreds- though Shabab figures say that they were attacked by 2000 AMISOM and TFG soldiers (undoubtedly, most of the TFG soldiers have run and it is only AMISOM holding the Ministry). Today AMISOM attacked the Al-Shabab encircling the Defence MInistry trying to get in supplies, and according to Sources they were repelled, lost 3 soldiers and left 50 bags of biscuits and ammunition. Al-shabab also lost the same number of soldiers.
In the coming days and weeks, Al-Shabab will be trying to get the trapped AMISOM to surrender, promising that they won’t execute them. AMISOM will try to break free their trapped soldiers or push the Shabab from the road connecting Jalle Siyad Military Academy with the Defence Ministry. Whatever happens, it is very clear that both sides will be using human and material resources of colossal proportions to get the upper hand.
In an attempt to divert resources from the northern Mogadishu front,TFG forces in Bondhere and Xararyale in Geographical east( known as “North Mogadishu”) launched frenzied attacks that were reported as very heavy by residents living in Suq Bacad, 2 kilometres away from the Bondhere frontlines. Either side did not gain any territory in Bondhere’s battle. The TFG later claimed to have won the battle and is now in Suq Bacad, according to them. My source who lives in Suq Bacad told me that that is not true. It is typical of the TFG to make false claims.
Both sides have a lot to lose from losing this battle. If Shabab loses the Defence ministry for good, they will lose their road to the Refugee Camps( which are now established cities) outside Mogadishu. To prevent this, thousands of Fighters have been flocking to the Capital to try and regain the strategic position, by cutting off the area. AMISOM on the other hand will lose dozens, if not hundreds, of soldiers if their soldiers in the Defence ministry surrender. The coming days will be of importance to both sides. To the TFG, their dream of once controlling Mogadishu can be realised if AMISOM cuts off Shabab from the Southern provinces. Shabab will have to take a longer route to come from Celasha and will not be able to easily bring in troops into Mogadishu especially in rainy seasons, which are not very far now- that is, if it rains at all.
At this point, one wonders if there is a military solution to this whole war. Four years on (or 2, if you want to start from when Sharif became president), it seems like it is a war of attrition. Shabab are counting on a steady stream of local recruits. They tell their recruits that even if the war continues for another 50 years, they won’t withdraw one day as this is their country. The TFG, on the other hand, holds the same view but doesn’t have as much potential recruits due to the small size of the area they control. The only recruits they can get are Shabab defectors that are mostly loyalists sent as infiltrators. Or, they can recruit Rer Xamar*. Good luck with that.
*Rer Xamar are known for being peaceful and not bothering with politics or war. The proverb “Whoever marries my mom is my step-dad” is theirs. The proverb means they are contented with whoever rules them