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Al-Shabaab Defections on the Rise
13 Militants Defect to TFG in Mogadishu and Gedo
By RASHID NUUNE 05/23/2011
TFG Soldier in Bakara Market
©Somalia Report
TFG Soldier in Bakara Market
In the ongoing battle for the control of Bakara Market in Mogadishu, four heavily armed underage fighters defected from the al-Shabaab militants to the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) side despite the risk of being killed in the battle.

The underage fighters, who were manning a check point a few meters from the entry point of Bakara Market, surrendered themselves to the African Union Peacekeeping Forces (AMISOM) who were controlling another check point nearby.

The young men were all carrying AK-47s and other sophisticated guns as well as hundreds of rounds of ammunition as they defected rather than die in the market.

"This is a crime against humanity as well as child abuse. Look at these innocent children being forced to fight a war that they barely understand," AMISOM Spokesman Paddy Akunda told Somalia Report.

"This is a clear sign to the whole world that al-Shabaab has no respect for human life. They recruit underage fighters and hand them weapons that are not meant for these minors," Akunda added while answering questions from journalists in the Halane base camp, Mogadishu.

Defections in Gedo Region

Nine other al-Shabaab fighters today defected in the Gedo region, where the TFG is launching another offensive there to flush out mostly the foreign fighters who conduct their operations there. Speaking to Somalia Report from Garbaharey district of the Gedo region Colonel Mohamed Ibrahim said, "It was a great pleasure to see nine innocent youth join the government side after seeing the ruthlessness of al-Shabaab."

"These are our children and I call on all of them to lay down their weapons and help us in wiping out the al-Shabaab menace in Somalia," said the colonel.

Strategic Road Now under TFG Control

The AMISOM spokesman added that it is only a matter of time before al-Shabaab is defeated after taking control of Waddada Wadnaha, an important strategic road that links Bakara Market and Mogadishu, as well as the Red Mosque from which al-Shabaab launched sniper attacks.

"The al-Shabaab group has no option now but get out of the Bakara Market," a Ugandan soldier at the Hawlwadag frontlines told Somalia Report.

Al-Shabaab admits losses

Former Hizbul Islam head, now a top al-Shabaab leader Hassan, Dahir Aweys called on his forces to stay motivated in the face of the losses.

"Let’s not lose morale now that we have lost in the past months. We need to regroup and counter the progress of the infidels," Aweys said. "I call on all the tribes in Somalia to stand by the Mujahideen in the battle against the western government."

Al-Shabaab Spokesman Ali Mohamud Ali Dhere admitted that it would be a big loss to the fighters if they lose Bakara Market. since it is their "financial hub".

Al-Shabaab began attacks on the pro-government forces from the roof tops of telephone companies who own the tallest buildings in the market. Hormuud Mobile service was off air for the better part of the day.