African forces seized the strategic headquarters of Islamist insurgents in Somalia in the latest defeat that’s expected to weaken al-Shabaab’s ability to plan attacks, including across the border in northern Kenya.
The capture of Dinsoor on Friday came a day after African Union forces supporting Somali government troops took control of the nearby town of Bardhere in the county’s southwest, said Kenya Defence Forces spokesman David Obonyo. Bardhere had been under al-Shabaab’s control for seven years and it was used as a base by the fighters to enter Kenya, Obonyo said.
Seven of the militants were killed after coming under heavy fire by the troops in an operation that began a week ago involving Ethiopian and Kenyan soldiers, said Obonyo.
Those two countries, along with Burundi, Uganda, Sierra Leone and Djibouti, have personnel in a 22,000-strong African Union force in Somalia that’s trying to end al-Shabaab’s eight-year bid to establish Shariah, or Islamic law. The group has lost territory to the coalition over the past few years, including the capital, Mogadishu, though it still carries out frequent gun and grenade attacks on civilians, including in Kenya where it raided a university in April, killing 150 people.
Security is one of the main issues that President Barack Obama is expected to discuss when he arrives Friday in Kenya on a four-day Africa tour that also includes a stop in Ethiopia.
The militants who fled Dinsoor headed south in the direction of Sugow, Buale and Jilib, an area that the military offensive now plans to turn its attention toward, said Obonyo.