Yesterday, al-Shabaab recaptured the strategic Ruun-Nirgood district from the Somali National Army (SNA) and Ma’awisley militia, who reportedly withdrew without putting up a fight. The government held the Ruun-Nirgood and the Hilowle Gaab districts for less than two weeks.
Ruun-Nirgood, Middle Shabelle, SOMALIA. By Dalmar:
The government presented the two-week-old victory as a crucial step in the ongoing anti-al-Shabaab campaign that has been gripping Somalia. However, it has become clear that the government forces were unable to hold and govern the captured area. Many experts repeatedly warned against this, underlining that the losses of (not only) Ruun-Nirgood will prevent residents from collaborating with the government.
Indeed, this has proven true. Well-informed sources described to the Somali Digest that the soldiers stationed in Ruun-Nirgood lacked basic needs, such as drinking water. The locals were unwilling to sell it to them nor interact with them. Our source said that most locals either sympathise with al-Shabaab or directly cooperate with them.
The militant group also informed about the district’s recapture. “Heavily armed forces of the Mujahideen took control today [yesterday] of the Ruun-Nirgood district of the Middle Shabelle region and other areas under that district, including Hilowle Gaab and Ad’adeey, after the apostate militia [al-Shabaab’s pejorative term for the Somali Security Forces] fled the area,” al-Shabaab-affiliated media said.
A long history of fighting for Ruun-Nirgood
A recurring pattern has emerged throughout the ongoing operation to weaken al-Shabaab’s hold on the region. In collaboration with the Ma’awisley militias, the government forces managed to liberate Ruun-Nirgood on 22 December 2022. However, their ability to maintain a grip did not last for long. Al-Shabaab attacked the government forces’ base in the area on 25 March, claiming to kill 51 soldiers, destroying eight vehicles, and seizing weapons and military equipment.
In late June, al-Shabaab managed a swift takeover of the Daarul Nim’a village in the Ruun-Nirgood district. During the night, the militants advanced unopposed after Ma’awisley forces and local inhabitants vacated, effectively abandoning the village to the insurgents. Eyewitnesses confirmed the destruction left by al-Shabaab. The militants set houses ablaze, ruined a vital water well and demolished the single village mosque’s steps.
Most recently, on 12 August, the government forces with the Ma’awisley militia managed to recapture the district again. They had been strategically positioned around the area for several days, planning and coordinating their offensive against the jihadists. Their efforts culminated on 12 August, as al-Shabaab withdrew without engaging in direct combat.