Ahead of President Barack Obama’s visit to the region, which starts later this week, Kenyan and Ethiopian troops operating in Somalia have launched a new military offensive against the al-Shabab militant group in Gedo and Bay regions.
The African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, announced the offensive named “Operation Jubba Corridor” and said the aim was to “flush out the terrorist group” from rural areas.
The first phase of two offensives was launched on Friday from Fafahdhun, a military base run by Kenyan troops in Gedo region. Troops had reached Tarako, 50 kilometers west of Bardhere town, on Sunday. It is the last major al-Shabab stronghold in Gedo region.
The second offensive was launched Friday from Qansahdhere town in Bay region by Ethiopian and Somali government troops. Those troops have reached Esow, 65 kilometers north of Bardhere, town according to Omar Sheikh Ismail, spokesman of the Somali forces fighting alongside the Ethiopian forces.
He also told VOA Somali that the operation involved the use of airpower.
Ethiopian troops are also expected to attack Dinsor, al-Shabab’s temporary headquarters, but this operation met some resistance according to VOA reporter in Baidoa town.
A car bomb on Sunday killed two Somali government soldiers heading to Dinsor on Sunday.
AMISOM Deputy Force Commander Major General Mohammedesha Zeyinu issued a statement about Operation Jubba Corridor.
“This operation seeks to clear main supply routes to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid to the population and flush Al-Shabab from all the said areas, ensuring full control by the Federal Government of Somalia,” the statement said.
During his trip to East Africa, President Obama will visit Kenya, the target of deadly al-Shabab attacks since it sent troops into Somalia in 2011, and Ethiopia.
On Thursday an airstrike in southern Somalia killed nearly 40 al-Shabab militants. At least three al-Shabab commanders were among those killed in the strike which occurred in the village of Garasdulan.