African Union and Somali troops rolled into Bardhere Wednesday morning with ease after weeks of military buildup and airstrikes as the militant group Al-Shabaab fled the town effectively denying them one of their last revenue sources.
Goobjoog News correspondent on the ground says the troops had an easy entry into the town which Al-Shabaab had already given it a wide berth following sustained attacks in the last few weeks which have claimed tens of militants including two of their leaders in a US air strike last week.
“The AMISOM and SNA tanks rolled into Bardhere this morning and took control without any struggle or fight. Al-Shabaab fighters had already left the town for fear of a clash,” he said.
There were fears that Al-Shabaab may have planted landmines and road side bombs to target the soldiers but there were no reported incidents.
The fall of Bardhere marks another milestone for AMISOM and Somali National Army in their bid to rid Somalia of violent extremism. It is also a major blow for Al-Shabaab which is now being strangled thanks to the fall of the two other major revenue sources, Kismayu will fell in 2012 and coastal town of Barawe last year.‘
A military source in Bardhere also told Goobjoog News their soldiers did not encounter any resistance and that they are now in full control of the town which until this morning was a major revenue source for the group. Bardhere, with an estimate population of 200,00 people is largely an agricultural zone and Al-Shabaab has been collecting taxes (zakat) from locals to run their operations.
The military source said they kept some of their troops outside the town to avoid scaring residents, some of whom had fled the town in the last one week.
“We have settled most of the troops on the fringes of the town in order not to scare the residents. Only a small infantry is now inside. The mood is calm and there is no attack or resistance. Residents are calm,” said the soldier.
Al-Shabaab has been controlling the town since 2008 after they dislodged government soldiers.
The Al-Shabab, meaning “youth” in Arabic, emerged out of a bitter insurgency against Ethiopia, whose troops entered Somalia in 2006 in a US-backed invasion to topple the Islamic Courts Union that was then controlling the capital Mogadishu.
Al-Shabab fighters continue to stage frequent attacks, seeking to counter claims that they are close to defeat after losing territory in the face of repeated African Union and Somali government offensives, regular US drone strikes against their leaders and defections.