The Somali National Army (SNA), Ma’awisley militia, and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) troops struggle to remove al-Shabaab militants from the dense forest areas of CiidCiid and Ali Fooldhere on the outskirts of the Mahaday district.
Mahaday district, Middle Shabelle region, HirShabelle, SOMALIA.
Less than a month ago, al-Shabaab militants crossed the Shabelle River from the west bank to the east and entered the forested areas of CiidCiid and Ali Fooldhere. At that time, the government forces and local Ma’awisley militia claimed that a significant number of militants were trapped in the forest and would either surrender or engage in combat.
Despite these claims, the militants have remained present. On 25 September, after several days of bombardment, some government troops and Ma’awisley forces entered the forest, engaging in an intense fight, which resulted in casualties among the soldiers. The allied forces eventually had to retreat from the forest. Subsequently, ATMIS troops joined the campaign to support the Somali forces.
What did ATMIS initially say?
In an official statement shared on their X account on 4 October, ATMIS announced a decisive blow to al-Shabaab in the forest. They stated that after days of intense ground combat using heavy weaponry, the mission to free the forest from al-Shabaab fighters ended victoriously.
“In a decisive blow to al-Shabaab terrorists, ATMIS’s Burundi & Uganda troops, alongside the SNA counterparts and local Ma’awisley volunteers, successfully dislodged militants from Ali Fooldhere Forest in the Middle Shabelle region. […] ATMIS Force Commander, Lt. Gen. Sam Okiding, commended the troops’ bravery, noting the forest’s strategic importance for terrorist attacks and concealed ammunition, including Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs).”
The reality on the ground
Despite these efforts, al-Shabaab militants are still present in the area, creating the potential to hinder the government’s efforts to liberate parts of Galmudug, as they are capable of disrupting logistic routes for government troops involved in the operations in that region. Moreover, the onset of the rainy season will further complicate the progress of these operations.
The situation underscores the difficulty and complexity of removing al-Shabaab from specific areas. Efforts to address the presence of the militants in CiidCiid and Ali Fooldhere will likely continue, with the aim of ensuring stability and security in the region.