Somali and African Union forces successfully expelled al-Shabab militants from villages around the rebel stronghold of Afgoye.
Wednesday was the second day in an offensive to push the al-Qaeda-backed militant group farther from Mogadishu. Hundreds of Somali soldiers backed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) advanced toward Afgoye one village at a time, and hope of having the area secured by the end of the week.
If not delayed by resistance, we shall capture Afgoye. We captured two anti-aircraft guns hooked on cars and destroyed one yesterday. We also [saw] about 40 bloated dead bodies of al-Shabab lying under the shrubs. They were killed in yesterday's battle, Captain Ndayiragije Come, who leads the Burundian soldiers in the AU mission, told Reuters.
Wednesday's battle sent thousands of Somalis fleeing toward Mogadishu and the surrounding countryside despite the AU's attempt to block movement in and out of the area, according to AllAfrica.
I remain concerned that an escalation of hostilities or a prolonged operation could lead to displacement, further straining the capacity of settlements and host communities in Mogadishu or driving people away from the life-saving help they require, stated Mark Bowden, the United Nations humanitarian coordinator for Somalia.
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The Afgoye corridor is home to about 400,000 refugees who fled violence in other parts of the country. Al-Shabab, which controls the area, is notorious for blocking the shipment of foreign aid, and the AU hopes to open the area for humanitarian access.
Once the security situation has stabilized, we hope to see that people will have the opportunity to return to their homes and humanitarian services will be available to them, Wafula Wamunyinyi, head of the AU's force in Somalia, told the Telegraph.
The number of causalities from Tuesday and Wednesday's fighting is unclear, but Iran's Press TV is reporting that at least 16 people have been killed during an exchange of artillery and machine gun fire.
On Tuesday, al-Shabab said it had killed 27 AU soldiers, including AMISOM’s head of operations for the Dayniile district; a Burundian identified as Kyankiriza.
Today’s offensive marks the largest joint effort by crusaders & apostate allies to capture Dayniile, but Allah has humiliated them once more, the rebels said through Twitter. The Dayniile battlefront is going down in the history of Somali Jihad as the largest graveyard of the AU forces, particularly Burundians.
Al-Shabab's twitter feed remained silent on Wednesday.