AMISOM today morning took a strategic path that is to the north of the Defence Ministry in Dayniile district, Mogadishu. AMISOM first took the Defence Ministry earlier this year, and the Shabab fought hard to stop them from advancing towards their sand road that goes from Garas Baley on the oustkirts of Mogadishu to Suqa Holaha in North Mogadishu, where the Shabab are still present today. Had AMISOM closed that path earlier, the Shabab would have found it very difficult to maintain a presence in Mogadishu, and would have been forced to take a very long detour that would have made a 10 kilometre journey become about 80 KM on rugged terrain (from Elasha to Afgoi to Bal’ad to Suqa Holaha).
Given the importance of that sand road to the Shabab in Mogadishu, and since AMISOM and TFG are threatening to cut off the Suqa Holaha to Bal’ad road on the other side of the city, the Shabab were faced with the biggest threat yet to their ease of entry and exit from Mogadishu. They counter attacked and managed to defeat the AMISOM troops present in the area, killing close to a hundred according to some reports, and displaying the bodies of 67 AMISOM soldiers in Alamada, just near Elasha Biyaha on the outskirts of Mogadishu. The Shabab spokesman was showing off the crosses being worn by the dead Soldiers and a Bible, to prove that it was a Holy war against two religions.
Given their superiority in numbers and weaponry, AMISOM will most likely take this strategic piece of road sooner or later, but may very well do so at a very high cost of life, given the importance it has to the Shabab, and the rural nature of the place:there are very few concrete buildings – or no buildings at all, in some places – to take cover behind, unlike areas closer to the Defence Ministry.
However, the taking of this road by AMISOM may not mean the end of the Shabab military incursions into the city as long as the Bal’ad – Suqa Holaha in North Mogadishu road is open. The group will just be forced to take a longer detour, or even base more troops around Bal’ad.
Even if both roads are closed and the Shabab military is denied entry into the city, they will most likely adapt and start targeting the outer bases of the TFG and AMISOM. What the closure of both roads will mean is an end to any more Shabab press conferences and military parades in Mogadishu, which they still do despite their official withdrawal.
Also, their security department will still be able to work inside Mogadishu even if both roads are secured, as has been shown by the recent increase in IED and Car Bombs in formerly fairly safe areas in deep TFG territory before the Shabab withdrawal.
But despite the major battlefield victory for Shabab today, the very fact that the battle has reached there may indicate that it is the beginning of the end of Shabab control of a few remaining pockets in North Mogadishu.
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