Analysis

Somalia: Likely to Lose Gains Made Against Al Qaeda Group
Transitional Federal Government (TFG) soldiers take up positions during heavy fighting on January 20, 2012 in Mogadishu's Yaqshid district that pitted TFG soldiers against fighters from the al Qaeda-linked terrorist group al-Shabaab. (Mohamed Abdiwahab/AFP/Getty Images)
January 26, 2012
| Security
| Africa
Summary
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Al-Shabaab’s grip on southern Somalia is beginning to loosen as Kenyan, Ethiopian, and African Union troops continue to make key advances toward the al Qaeda-linked militant group’s stronghold cities near the southern coast. However, power struggles and chronic poor governance within Somalia’s transitional government will likely continue to cripple efforts to bring peace and stability to the war torn nation in the near future.

Al-Shabaab militants currently face a three-front battle, with Ethiopian forces moving in from the east, Kenyan troops from the south, and government forces backed by African Union peacekeepers (AMISOM) pushing outward from the government controlled capital of Mogadishu. On January 20, the BBC reported that government and AMISOM troops had captured three al-Shabaab enclaves, securing territory outside of the city for the first time. Earlier this month, Ethiopian troops made key advances into the central Somali city of Beledweyne, a trading axis for militants located near the Ethiopian border. Kenyan forces also have made advances in the south after being bogged down by heavy rains earlier in the campaign. This week, troops are reportedly closing in on the town of Afmandow, a gateway leading to the coastal town of Kismayu, which acts as the financial nerve center and de-facto capital of al-Shabaab’s territory.

 

Despite critical losses, al-Shabaab remains a significant threat. On January 24, it claimed responsibility for a bombing attack on an Ethiopian military base in Beledweyne. The group’s Twitter feed announced that 33 Ethiopians were killed in the strike.  These numbers could not be independently verified.

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