The Somali Digest brings a chilling recap: a breakdown of 3 days of the government’s collapse in the Galgaduud region of Galmudug. The government forces suffered a tremendous setback in the fight against al-Shabaab. The territory they shortly liberated last week as a result of months-long efforts was lost within a few hours. Al-Shabaab recaptured Osweyne, Budbud, Masagaway, Gal’ad, and El Dher. Moreover, the militant group has encircled El Buur.
Galgaduud, Galmudug, SOMALIA. By Yahya:
The carnage commenced on Saturday morning when al-Shabaab recaptured Osweyne. This first setback occurred the day after the SNA and allied forces liberated El Buur, which the government described as a historic victory against the Islamists. At the moment, El Buur seems to be the last place the government still holds in the area. The rest of the southern frontline in Galgaduud has collapsed.
Saturday: The loss of Osweyne
On Saturday morning, al-Shabaab recaptured Osweyne after an intense battle with the SNA and Ma’awisley militias. The fighting began with a suicide attack followed by a ground assault by al-Shabaab militants. Casualties were high.
The Somali Digest contacted soldiers in the area. One of them, who talked to us on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the SNA and allied local forces suffered casualties and lost military hardware, including vehicles, to the enemy. Later that day, al-Shabaab published photos from the attack, displaying the capture of three government soldiers.
Sunday: The loss of Budbud
The SNA withdrew from Budbud on Sunday, 27 August. Initially, the army captured the town from al-Shabaab on 16 April, bolstering hopes for the government’s capacity to regain control over its territories. These hopes proved to be fleeting, as al-Shabaab swiftly countered with a counter-offensive, reclaiming the town within days. This pattern repeated itself recently. On 22 August, the SNA again took control of Budbud, only to withdraw and relinquish it on Sunday.
A disquieting insight into the situation came from one of the soldiers stationed in Budbud, who told the Somali Digest, “What I can confirm is that the army is disorganized, the defeat in Osweyne put fear into most of the soldiers, the newly trained soldiers are not able to defend against al-Shabaab attacks. There are fears that there will be more withdrawals because the army doesn’t get enough air support.”
Monday: The loss of Wabho, El Dher, Gal’ad and Masagaway
The carnage followed on Monday, 28 August. In the morning, al-Shabaab recaptured the Wabho district without facing any resistance after the government forces withdrew. The SNA’s takeover of the town, located strategically between Mahaas and El Buur, was a significant milestone in the government’s efforts to liberate the region.
Wabho, a critical hub in Galgaduud, has experienced multiple changes in control since 2014. Ethiopian forces initially captured the town from al-Shabaab in August of that year but lost it to a swift al-Shabaab counterattack in December. A second Ethiopian campaign to retake the town succeeded in October 2015, only to see forces abandon it in June 2016. Most recently, in November 2022, the Somali government captured Wabho, only for al-Shabaab to reclaim it days after the government withdrew.
Government media is silent and disinforming
With the current breakdown across the frontline, it is difficult to imagine that Phase I of operations aimed at rooting out al-Shabaab from Galmudug could wrap up anytime soon. Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud is still in the State’s capital, Dhuusamareeb, allegedly ‘spearheading‘ the operations.
Unsurprisingly, the government media, including the Somali National News Agency (SONNA), do not report the SNA’s losses in Galgaduud. There is not even a single mention of this total collapse of what should have been a successful conclusion of Phase I operations against al-Shabaab. Instead, yesterday, SONNA reported, “The Army, together with local forces, gained military progress during his [President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s] stay there, according to the officials.” This was on Monday, when the SNA had already lost all the territories mentioned above.
Moreover, not only did the government and its media remain silent, but they also spread disinformation about the recent defeats. When the SNA and allied forces lost Osweyne, the government media claimed that the SNA and Ma’awisley foiled the al-Shabaab’s attack after receiving prior intelligence.
“The SNA and Ma’awisley foiled an attack by the Khawarij militia [a derogative term the Somali government officials often use when referring to al-Shabaab] this morning in a recently liberated Oswein. The SNA, which had the information of the Khawarij, fought bravely against al-Shabaab troops equipped with SVBIEDs [suicide vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices],” said the Somali government’s statement.
As we confirmed from different sources, the government utterly lied in this statement.
The Somali government’s attempted offensive, aimed at concluding Phase I of rooting out al-Shabaab militants from Galmudug, has fallen apart. The enormous setbacks will have dire consequences for local trust in the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS). Experts have long warned the government that it lacks staying power – the ability to hold territories they captured from the Islamists.
The focus of the next hours and days will most likely lie on El Buur, which the government forces liberated last Friday. However, al-Shabaab now completely encircled the strategic town.