Mogadishu: The Africa Union (AU) forces, alongside Somali government troops, on Thursday captured several villages in central Somalia’s Hiran region from Al-Shabaab militants, a local official said.
Hiran region mayor Abdifitah Hassan Afrah said the joint forces seized the villages after fierce battles during which the AU fighter jets conducted air strikes on the militants, Xinhua news agency reported.
Afrah said four villages were retaken and the militants took heavy causalities.
“This operation is aimed to liberate all villages controlled by Al-Shabaab in Hiran region, and AU warplanes carried out airstrikes against the enemies to force them to flee these villages,” he said.
He also denied that there were casualties on the joint forces side.
“The fighting was huge and we heard heavy explosions because fighter jets were involved in the battle,” said local resident Adan Said.
The UN Migration Agency has begun providing life-saving health care to two Somali towns previously inaccessible because of war and conflict.
Tens of thousands of people in the towns of Gobweyn and Bulla Gaduud have been deprived of life-saving health care for nearly three decades. These areas have been too dangerous for aid workers to reach because of the never-ending cycles of war and conflict in the area.
In recent months, International Organization for Migration spokesman, Joel Millman says government forces have succeeded in subduing the armed groups that have made life a misery for local inhabitants. This, he says has opened up these areas to outside help.
“For the past 27 years, war and conflict have made healthcare access difficult or impossible in many parts of the country. Now these communities have access to vaccinations, malaria treatment, antenatal care for pregnant mothers, malnutrition screenings and referrals, among other essential services,” Millman said.
Millman says aid agencies who finally were able to reach these towns were dismayed by the prevailing conditions. He says they found high levels of malnutrition and extremely poor immunization coverage.
Because the towns had no humanitarian services, he says many people had abandoned their villages. He says they were living in overcrowded settlements in far-away urban centers where medical care was available.