Al Shabab flees Somali port of Merca ahead of African Union troops

 

McClatchy Newspapers

African Union and Somali soldiers captured another key town from Somalia’s al Qaida affiliate Monday, seizing the fishing port of Merca and boxing in the Islamist rebels even further in a steady military campaign aimed at capturing their last major stronghold, the port of Kismayo.

Al Shabab rebels, who once ruled much of Somalia under Taliban-style shariah law, had held Merca, a coastal town of white buildings and exotic Indian Ocean beaches about 45 miles south of Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital. Al Shabab merged earlier this year with al Qaida, but a variety of forces, including troops from Kenya and Ethiopia who invaded last year, have pushed it back.

Accounts from the town said al Shabab officials and fighters had fled south toward Kismayo three hours before the African Union troops arrived. Tensions were high in Merca now, residents said.

“We are worried about our security,” one resident, Nur Mohamed, said in a phone interview. “Everybody is staying inside his house. No one is moving outside. Businesses are closed.”

Officials of the Somali government in Mogadishu gloated over the news, proclaiming that al Shabab’s rule will soon be finished.

“Our troops are controlling the town. We captured it peacefully," said Abdukadir Mohamed Nur, the regional governor appointed by the federal government. "We have already planned our offensives. We have a good strategy, and our troops, backed by the AMISOM forces, will assure the control of Lower Shabelle region."

His statement referred to the African Union Mission in Somalia, the regional force composed mainly of Ugandan, Burundian and Kenyan troops.

No comments were available from al Shabab.

Troops from AMISOM, the Somali government and Kenya, whose forces invaded Somalia last year, have beaten back Al Shabab steadily over the past year . The capture of Merca now raises the likelihood that the Islamist rebels in Kismayo, 210 miles away, will face assault from multiple fronts, with seasoned Ugandan and Burundian forces attacking from the north and Kenyan troops attacking from the west.

Kenya had promised to capture Kismayo by the end of August, but the offensive has been delayed a number of times, most recently by negotiations with Ethiopia over who’ll rule the region afterward.

Boswell, who reported from Nairobi, and Ibrahim, who reported from Mogadishu, are McClatchy special correspondents. Boswell’s reporting is underwritten in part by a grant from Humanity United, a California-based foundation that focuses on human rights issues.

Read more World Wires stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
Malaysia Army soldiers carry one of the bodies of the downed MH17 flight on the arrival at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, Malaysia, Friday, Aug. 22, 2014. The bodies of 20 victims' of the ill-fated Malaysia Airlines flight that was shot down over eastern Ukraine last month, returned home from Amsterdam on Friday.

    Malaysia receives bodies from Flight 17 crash

    The bodies and ashes of 20 Malaysians killed when Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over Ukraine in July have arrived in Kuala Lumpur, the first repatriation of victims from the flight to the country.

  • Mexico increases number of missing to 22,322

    The Mexican government has increased its calculation of the number of people who have disappeared since the start of the country's drug war in 2006 and now lists 22,322 as missing, officials said Thursday. It had said in May that 8,000 people were missing.

  • Mexico nabs suspects with 10,000 sea turtle eggs

    Environmental prosecutors in Mexico say three suspects have been detained in the southern Pacific coast state of Oaxaca with more than 10,000 illegally harvested eggs from protected sea turtles.

    Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category