Somalia’s Federal Government said elements of the Somali National Army and elite Danab forces launched an operation to capture the town of Janaale from al-Shabaab militants at dawn on Monday.
“Government forces have successfully taken over the Janaale bridge and drive[n] al-Shabaab from their strongholds in the city,” the information ministry said in a Tuesday, March 17 statement.
“Ongoing military operations continue inside the city to completely rid the terrorist al-Shabaab from Janaale and surrounding areas. The initial assessment from commanders is that several militants have been killed thus far,” the statement said.
The ministry encouraged people with relatives in Janaale to “inform them of this operation and encourage them to stay in their homes.”
Pro-government media outlet Somali National Television reported that the SNA had captured the town after al-Shabaab militants fled on Monday. A spokesperson for Somalia’s information ministry also said Janaale is under government control as of Tuesday.
Major Karl Wiest, a spokesperson for U.S. Africa Command, declined to comment on ongoing operations.
Janaale, a farming town some 75 km (46 miles) southwest of Mogadishu in the Lower Shabelle region, has been under al-Shabaab control for years. It lies on an inland road linking the port of Merca and town of Afgooye.
Al-Shabaab has fought to establish an Islamic state in Somalia since 2006. The militants were largely routed from Mogadishu in 2011 by the African Union’s Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) but they still control significant rural areas.
The SNA’s assault on the town comes as part of Operation Badbaado, a joint effort to secure areas south of the capital.
U.S. Special Operations support for the Somali National Army has led to the killing of a number of the group’s leaders, but government forces have made slow progress securing territory outside Mogadishu, and still depend on foreign military support to hold rural outposts, a Pentagon Inspector General report said in February.