MOGADISHU (SD) – Al-Shabaab militants on Monday retook a strategic town in Central Somalia albeit temporarily, in a drastic move that could yet again raise questions about the ability of Somali government forces to effectively handle insecurity incidents.
The Al-Qaida linked group seized Matabaan, a key town in the Hiran region on Monday according to the residents who spoke to Garowe Online by phone. The militants raised their black banner on top of Matabaan’s police and administrative offices to show their arrival.
According to reports, the militants temporarily took over control of the town when Galmadug police officers who were tasked with manning the area left for unknown reasons. Once Somali National Army [SNA] seizes important towns, they hand them over to other security forces.
The latest reports from Matabaann town indicate that the Al-Shabaab fighters have left the town as government troops mobilize in Guriel to head to the area. Before leaving, the militants reportedly destroyed the town’s police station by detonating explosives.
The development comes just days after government forces in Guriel faced Ahla Sunna Wal Jamaa [ASWJ] in the region, leading to the death of dozens. The ASWJ militia was once an ally of the federal government of Somalia before cutting ranks.
The Somali government has been battling against Al-Shabaab militants with the help of African Union Mission Forces [AMISOM] in the region. Although the troops have not managed to completely vanquish Al-Shabaab, important gains have been made.