, MOGADISHU, Jan 21 – Somali transitional government forces on Saturday vowed to chase “violent elements” out of Mogadishu, a day after an offensive aimed at dislodging Al-Qaeda linked Shebab militia from the capital.
“There are still a few pockets of resistance of the defeated terrorists. They have launched at least six desperate counter attacks last night, but the TFG (government forces) and AMISOM (African Union Mission in Somalia) troops have repelled them,” government military official Abdulahi Mohamed said.
“Our forces consolidated the positions they captured yesterday and the situation is quiet this morning, but the military campaign to eliminate violent elements from Mogadishu will continue,” he added.
According to the official, six Somali government troops had been killed since Friday and 18 wounded.
An AFP photographer said three Somali soldiers and a government official were killed when a convoy including journalists was attacked by Shebab fighters near the frontline.
Hardline Shebab fighters abandoned fixed positions in most of Mogadishu last August but continue to control small pockets on the outskirts.
The fighters have largely switched to guerrilla tactics in Mogadishu, launching a string of attacks including roadside bombs and grenade explosions against the Western-backed government and AU troops.
Witnesses said Friday’s offensive was a large-scale assault by the AU force, which has been battling the Shebab and defending the Western-backed government since 2007.
AMISOM boasted the assault had allowed it for the “first time… to secure an area outside” the city, although it has pushed outside the city in other sections in earlier assaults against Shebab positions.
Regional armies are converging on the Shebab — Kenyan forces in the far south, Ethiopian soldiers in the west and African Union forces in Mogadishu made up of 10,000 troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti.
AMISOM commander Major Fred Mugisha has said that 98 percent of Mogadishu is free, but the city remains one of the world’s most dangerous amid a severe humanitarian crisis and devastation from more than 20 years of conflict.
Somalia was the hardest hit country in the Horn of Africa region by a recent drought that left some 12 million people facing extreme hunger.