Al-Shabab Takfiri militants takes control of key town in central Somalia

October 23, 2016 9:30 pm

A handout photo taken on June 10, 2016, and released by the African Union Mission in (AMISOM) shows Ethiopian soldiers serving under the mission in Halgan, Hiran province, . (Photo by AFP)

Takfiri militants have retaken control of a key town in Somalia’s central province of Hiran in the wake of the withdrawal of hundreds of Ethiopian troops serving with the African Union mission in the area.
The al-Qaeda-linked militant group said in a statement that its members had “stormed the town (of Halgan) soon after the enemy pulled out” on Sunday.
The statement added that the militants had taken full control of the town, which is located at a key junction on the road to the capital Mogadishu, hoisting the group’s flag over the district headquarters.
Local security sources and residents confirmed the withdrawal of the Ethiopian troops from the town.
Nur Adan, a security official in Beledweyne, the capital of Hiran, said the Ethiopian troops headed toward the city after leaving Halgan together with Somali army soldiers, adding, “The Ethiopian soldiers pulled out of Halgan town this (Sunday) morning. We are getting (reports) that they have destroyed their bases and trenches around the town before heading for Beledweyne.”
“The Ethiopian soldiers vacated their bases this morning, we saw them heading towards Beledweyne. There were tanks and big trucks in their convoy,” Osman Adan, a witness, told AFP on the phone. 
It was the third time this month that the militants moved into Halgan after the departure of Ethiopian forces. In June, al-Shabab assailants carried out a deadly attack on an Ethiopian army base in Halgan.
The fall of Halgan is likely to increase pressure and attacks on the African Union forces in Buloburde, which is the second largest town in Hiran.
Al-Shabab seeks to topple the government in Mogadishu.
Somalia has been the scene of fighting between al-Shabab and government forces since 2006. In 2011, al-Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu and other major cities.
AMISOM is largely made up of troops from Ethiopia, Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Sierra Leone, and Kenya.
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