Witnesses say residents fled as the Ethiopian forces advanced. They say local fighters have retreated to another point.
Al-Shabab is now fighting hostile militaries on three sides. Kenyan troops moved into Somalia in mid October, in a push against the fighters in the south of the country.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Farhan Ali Ahmed, the Secretary General of Somali Concern Group in London, to discuss the issue further.
The video offers the opinions of two additional guests: Ayman Salama, professor of International Law in Cairo, and Linh Dinh who is a writer and journalist. http://presstv.com/detail/218979.html
What follows is an approximate transcription of the interview:
Press TV: The weak Somali government says al-Shabab is a terrorist group which is simply trying to cause havoc and chaos in the country. How do you see it?
Ahmed: Yes, actually that is true. Al-Shabab is an organization; they have links with al-Qaeda and they really committed crimes against humanity and they carried out suicide bombings and killed so many Somali people and actually they are committing a lot of crimes in Somalia. They are actually kidnapping some tourist individuals from Kenya and also they are also posing threat to the neighboring countries and the international community.
So yes, they are causing a lot of problems to the Somali communities. They are harassing them; they kill many people. They actually rule by an iron fist in those areas they control. Luckily, they fled from Mogadishu and now the Somali government, as they said it, they have Somali government and Kenya had agreed a joint security crackdown to defeat the al-Shabab.
Press TV: Some critics say that the liberation of southern Somalia will actually only drive al-Shabab on the ground and they will resume their activity there. Do you think that this is the right strategy that is being taken against them at this point in time?
Ahmed: I think that so far the decline of al-Shabab has already started as they lost in many battles in the capital, again that transitional federal government backed by AMISOM, African Union Troops, and I believe that demise of the al-Shabab is not far but what many Somalis are now actually worrying about it or thinking about it and also the current military intervention from the frontline states is the success of those military interventionists remain to be seen.
I mean, Somalia is now thinking about, as one of our colleagues has mentioned, they want peace and they want a conflict resolution, peaceful resolution. All political parties who have been fighting, a political reason to be accommodated and be a part in the government. At the moment, it is the beginning; they will be militarily defeated but there are two strategies that I can see they are actually playing at the moment.
One is because Somali people traditionally are not people who welcome foreigners, especially military foreigners, and now they encourage frontline states to interfere in it. So they want to play a card that is uphill to the Somali people that Somalia is vulnerable on neighboring countries on interfering militarily. So they want to play that card in order to seek resources and supports locally.
Also the neighboring countries historically, we know like Ethiopia, has interfered in 2006 and have not succeeded at that time in that operation and also many people are worrying whether this time is different. So there are many questions to be answered.
Press TV: How ironic is all of this, Mr. Ali Ahmed? We are talking about a country that has basically been fighting and not stable and at the same time, we know the situation is that the people are suffering in that country. But as Mr. Dinh [the other guest in the show] has said, it is actually a very wealthy nation. Do you think that this chaos that is in the country is to the advantage of certain entities? Or how do you see it at all?
Ahmed: I think any country in the world, the world which we live now, is a status. It is a various status and every state actually pursues its own self-interest. And actually what is likely now is the Somali people to have a Somali solution. What has been likely for the last twenty years was nothing more than that. I mean, there is no other nation who is going to build Somalia.
Press TV: You just said that the Somali people should have a Somali solution, but we are talking about Ethiopians soldiers; we are talking about Kenyan soldiers; we are not talking about indigenous forces. So how do you see what is happening right now that it will result in that Somali solution?
Ahmed: Yes, you are right. But when you see that Somalia is located in a very strategic location and lies in a very strategic location and also because at the moment the Somali government in Mogadishu lacks the capacity to actually govern the whole country. Somalia is a very big country and the government actually lacks the resources and capacity to control the country.
So what is actually needed at the moment is in order to defeat al-Shabab, a military solution is not only the antidotes of the conflict that lasted for the last twenty years but what the international community especially the African Union, the neighboring countries and the Arabs and the international community have to do is to empower the Somali government who has lacked the resources for the last three to four years who are now in Mogadishu.