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Heavy fighting pitting Somali Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union peacekeeping (AMISOM) forces against al-Shabaab insurgents took place in several parts of Mogadishu on early Friday morning, resulting in large areas of the capital being seized from the militant group.
The fighting was the heaviest since al-Shabaab withdrew from most of Mogadishu on August 6, 2011. AMISOM armored transports and tanks were visible in new areas in Mogadishu on Friday, including the much-contested northern neighborhoods of Daynille, as well the livestock market (Suqa Hoolaha) in Heliwa.
These districts, on the northern outskirts of Mogadishu, were al-Shabaab's last foothold in the capital.
"Late last night we launched an organized offensive on several positions held by the extremists, and we have forced them to flee. We are chasing them, and I can confirm that we have reached Daynille district and Suqa Hoolaha, which were their strongholds,” TFG Colonel Abdullahi Ali Anod told Somalia Report.
Mohamed Ali Nor, a resident in Heliwa district, told Somalia Report that mortars and stay bullets had killed three civilians and injured two others in the district, who were not taken to hospitals because the fierce fighting forced residents to remain indoors.
TFG and AMISOM forces also reached the strategic road of Basra that links Afgoye, 25 kilometers to the west, with Mogadishu.
Somalia Report Correspondant Comes Under Attack
In a perhaps premature press junket to the front lines early this afternoon, a convoy carrying journalists, including the author of this report, came under attack from al-Shabaab fighters near Mogadishu University, Daynille. A high-ranking logistics officer, Colonel Siciid Abdi, and his two guards were killed, according to our correspondant.
Another TFG commander, General Yusuf Dhegabadan, barely escaped being killed.
A transport carrying journalists narrowly avoided a similar fate, as Somalia Report's correspondant was thrown clear of the vehicle during the attack, injuring his hand in the fall.
AMISOM spokesman Major Paddy Ankunda addressed the media at a press conference earlier today.
“Earlier this morning, AMISOM forces succeeded in capturing Mogadishu University, Barakaat cemetery, and the milk factory, which are now under AMISOM and government control. This is the first time AMISOM has moved out of the city, and it is the first step toward the cleansing of remaining al-Shabaab pockets from the capital. Unfortunately two of our soldiers were injured during the operation and are receiving treatment. However, I would like to pass on the message to the people of Somalia, that Mogadishu is now almost peaceful."
“The plan now is idea is to the increase the capacity of the TFG, so that they can conduct policing in the areas the we have liberated," he added.
The number of casualties on the warring sides is not yet clear, and al-Shabaab officials have not yet commented on the fighting.
The eviction of al-Shabaab militants from Mogadishu comes in the wake of territorial gains against the Islamist organization in Beledweyne, as well as pats of Lower Juba and Gedo regions.
TFG Official Killed
TFG commander Gen. Abdikarem Yussuf (Dhega Badan) told the local media today that armed al-Shabaab fighters ambushed a TFG convoy and opened fire, killing TFG official for Food Facilities, Sacid Said Dahir, and three TFG soldiers.
"The brave soldiers returned fire against the al-Shabaab fighters and killed them," said Mr. Yussuf.
Muhudin Hassan Jurus, TFG Chairman of Yaqshid district, confirmed the incident to Somalia Report.
"Yes, al-Shabaab attacked a TFG convoy passing near Arafat section in Mogadishu, which caused the deaths of three soldiers and Sacid Said Hassan, but military forces commander Gen. Abdikarem Yussuf survived the incident," said Mr. Jurus.