Ethiopian troops take Somali town from al Shabaab
Residents said Ethiopian tanks, supported by Somali government soldiers, rolled into Yurkud town after a brief gunbattle with members of al Shabaab who are fighting to topple the Western-backed government of the Horn of Africa country.
Yurkud, a strategic town that links Bakool, Bay and Gedo regions of the lawless country, is about 110 km (70 km) northwest of Baidoa, a stronghold of the rebel group.
“We have captured Yurkud town, our objective is to secure Bay and Bakool regions,” Abdifatah Mohamed, a commander of the Somali government forces told Reuters by phone from Yurkud.
“With the help of Ethiopian troops we are determined to oust al Shabaab. They attacked us and we repulsed them. Now we have advanced from Yurkud, Baidoa is now only 85 km away.”
Al Shabaab confirmed the capture of Yurkud.
“Ethiopian troops are now at Yurkud after fierce fighting this morning. We burnt two of their military lorries,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, the spokesman for al Shabaab’s military operation told Reuters from a location in southern Somalia.
“We attacked them this afternoon again – we shall continue fighting until we oust Ethiopians from our country.”
On New Year’s Eve, Ethiopian troops captured the Somali border town of Baladwayne from al Shabaab, who Kenyan troops have also been battling since last October.
At the time, Ethiopia said it was willing to expand its operation beyond Baladwayne if Somalia’s government asked for backing.