(Updates with number of wounded in second paragraph.)
July 28 (Bloomberg) -- African Union peacekeepers in Somalia captured three “strategic” locations from al-Qaeda- linked rebels in the capital, Mogadishu, to protect aid workers providing assistance to people in the famine-struck country.
The positions of Florenza, Sinai and Monopolio Junctions in northeast Mogadishu were seized after a “highly targeted” security operation in the city, the African Union Mission in Somalia said in an e-mailed statement today. Forty one civilians being held by the al-Shabaab rebel group were freed in the raid, it said, while medical officials said 50 people were wounded.
“Our troops have dealt with specific security threats in a short tactical offensive operation,” Amisom said. The action will “ensure that aid agencies can continue to operate and get vital supplies to internally displaced persons.”
As many as 100,000 people have arrived in Mogadishu over the past two months in search of food, water and shelter following a drought that has caused a famine in two regions of Somalia, according to the United Nations. Today’s raids came before the start next week of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month during which al-Shabaab has started offensives every year since it began an insurgency against Somalia’s western-backed government in 2007.
Somalia has been mired in a civil war for two decades and hasn’t had a functioning central government since the 1991 ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. Most of the southern and central parts of the Horn of African nation have been seized by al-Shabaab, which the U.S. accuses of having links to al-Qaeda, while Mogadishu is controlled by a Western-backed government led by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
Most of those injured in today’s clashes were women and children, said Marian Abdullahi, a nurse at Medina Hospital in Mogadishu. “Most of them have shrapnel wounds,” she said.
Somali Prime Minister Abdiwel Mohamed welcomed the advances by the African Union peacekeepers, who are trying to help Sheikh Sharif’s security forces impose stability on the country.
“I assure you that we will clear out these terrorist elements from Mogadishu in a short period,” Mohamed said.
--Editors: Paul Richardson, Philip Sanders.
To contact the reporter on this story: Hamsa Omar in Mogadishu via Nairobi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at email@example.com.