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After al-Shabaab fighters vacated Baidoa town and other parts of Bay region in Southern Somalia, the insurgent group has escalated hit and run attacks against Transitional Federal Government (TFG) troops and their allied Ethiopian forces.
A week ago, a general meeting was held among al-Shabaab officials, pro-al-Shabaab elders and intellectuals in the Dinsor District of Bay region where new military operations and offensives were discussed.
Senior officials including Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Mukhtar Robow (Abumansur) were present at the meeting, according to al-Shabaab officials in Dinsor district.
The members of the group discussed the loss of ground in south-west Somalia and how the militia could regain control of Baidoa and other districts in Gedo region.
Sheikh Abdirahin Ali, an al-Shabaab public awareness officer, told Somalia Report that during the meeting a new plan was unveiled for the group regarding Ethiopia and TFG’s alliance in Bay and Gedo region.
“We gathered all of the traditional elders and intellectuals who come from Bay, Bakol, Gedo and other areas under control of al-Shabaab. They focused on increasing attacks against Ethiopian infidels who invaded our Islamic country,” he said.
Officials have suggested the adoption of new military tactics and recruitment of new fighters who will boost the hit and run attacks in the main cities of Bay, Bakol and Gedo regions.
“I don’t want to tell you about the new tactics that we agreed on initiating. It is not a public issue,” he added.
The increase of guerrilla attacks against TFG troops in Baidoa as well as conducting more successful assassinations included the final outcome of the Dinsor meeting.
According to Sheikh Ali, the militia will carry out night offensives and suicides attacks on Ethiopian bases in Baidoa town. The defense of Wajid District, a former base for United Nations (UN) agencies is one of the group’s major targets.
Other sources in Dinsor indicate that the group also announced a warning to local people especially traders who may deal with Ethiopia troops. One of the al-Shabaab officers is said to have publicly threatened that they will kill anyone who tries to deal with Ethiopian troops in Bay region.
On Monday afternoon, while speaking to Dinsor residents, Sheikh Mukhtar Robow called on civilians to support the new operations by al-Shabaab and warned that they will target anyone who works with Ethiopians and anti Islamist groups in Somalia.
“We will seize Baidoa and the Mujahideen will have to face that danger. Always Islam will gain success. They are infidels, so what is your role? Your role is to fight, to kill an infidel is of benefit to you and you’re here after,” Robow stated.
This created a lot of stress among civilians and traders who are not involved in the fighting between al-Shabaab and TFG’s Ethiopian allied front.
Solid sources in al-Shabaab say that Hassan Dahir Aweys and Sheikh Robow Mansur were appointed to lead the new al-Shabaab operations in southern Somalia after experiencing failures in various military operations conducted in Mogadishu, Jubba , Gedo and Bay regions.
Some of the group’s officials believe that the leadership of these two commanders will bear fruit because of their alliance and influence upon residents in those regions. Many local officials are likely to respond positively to the words of Aweys and Robow rather than Ahmed Godane's who is the senior leader of al-Shabaab.
“The late massive fighting in Yurkud was an experiment of our offensives against Ethiopian infidels and government forces. We killed at least 80 and this proves that we are capable,” Sheikh Ali asserted.
TFG's Response to Al-Shabaab's New Strategies
TFG officials in Baidoa town said that they will defend the town and eliminate al-Shabaab from the area.
Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade, a Somali Member of Parliament told Somalia Report by telephone that they are on the side lines of the activities planned by the militia and are aware of what they are going to do.
“We know everything. They fled from here and went to Dinsor but what I want to tell you is that TFG will reach all Bay districts. We will confirm our movements, we are currently organizing our troops,” he said.
Government troops plan on advancing upon the districts of Bay and Bakool regions, where some al-Shabaab militants are in hiding. Mr. Habsade called on foreign fighters to move out of the region and promised that they will finalize the fighting against al-Shabaab within a month.
Al-Shabaab is arming hundreds of fighters in southwest Somalia in an attempt to re-capture Baidoa which is one of the most strategic goals that they intend to achieve as part of their new military strategy.