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Report: Somalia

AU troops launch anti-Shebab offensive in refugee region

Des soldats de l’AMISOM et des forces somaliennes pendant une opération contre les shebabs à Dayniile, le 22 mai 2012.
Des soldats de l’AMISOM et des forces somaliennes pendant une opération contre les shebabs à Dayniile, le 22 mai 2012. Reuters/Stuart Price/African Union-UN Information Support Team

African forces backing Somali government troops say they have launched a carefully planned operation to bring security and stability to the people of the Afgoye corridor, a rural area where thousands of displaced people are now camped.

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Locals said all movement of civilians in the Afgoye corridor has been blocked and the African Union (AU) mission, Amisom, was carrying out military manoeuvres there.

The actual number of casualties between two warring sides is still unclear but witnesses in the area said several people have been killed in the battle.

Al-Shebab - who are they?

They said most civilians had deserted the area before the clashes.

Three AU soldiers were wounded in Tuesday's offensive, led by both Ugandan and Burundian troops, according to Amisom spokesperson Paddy Ankunda.

He said Amisom forces will continue the fight until they liberate Afgoye which Amisom claims was used as a centre for planning and coordinating terrorist attacks on the Amisom and TFG officials .

The Afgoye corridor, which is one of the Islamist rebellion's last strongholds, is an area controlled by Al-Shebab some 30 kilometres north-west of Mogadishu.

It is also home to the world's largest concentration of internally displaced people and said to be a place where Al-Qaeda-affiliated leaders frequently hold meetings to plan attacks against Somalia's government.

One Somali commander, speaking anonymously, said AU and Somali force attacked Al-Shebab from the Deynile neighborhood northwest of central Mogadishu, which had been a safe haven fpr the group for years.

No Al-Shebab official was immediately available for comment.

Since abandoning fixed positions in Mogadishu in August, the movement has been chased out of most of its strongholds, with the notable exception of the southern port of Kismayo.

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