Residents flee Mogadishu Islamist rebel bastion

March 31, 2012 - 11:55:20 pm
MOGADISHU: Somali residents yesterday fled one of the capital’s last Islamist strongholds after a day of heavy fighting in which African forces backing government troops said they seized the area.

The few families still in the sprawling Deynile neighbourhood made the most of a lull in fighting to flee the area, which has for years been a haven for the Al Qaeda-affiliated Shebab, witnesses said.

The situation remained tense, and Dahir Mohamed, a local resident said that “we are still confused as to who is controlling what in the district. The situation is very volatile.”

“There is no fighting today and the Afgoye corridor road was reopened,” said another resident, Asha Osman, adding that families were leaving. Deynile commands access to the Afgoye corridor, an area some 30km northwest of Mogadishu, which is controlled by the Shebab and is home to the world’s largest concentration of internally displaced people. The African Union Mission in Somalia on Friday said that Somali government troops backed by AMISOM forces had “seized the district of Deynile and routed the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab terrorists.”

But a humanitarian aid source reported that shooting could still be heard in the area well after the statement by AMISOM, a well-equipped force of more than 10,000 soldiers from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti. AFP