Somali government forces and African Union troops pushed al Qaeda-linked militants out of its last outpost of Damanyo in the western part of Mogadishu, opening the main artery to the famed Bakaara Market, the African Union Mission to Somalia said Friday.
It’s the latest action in a months-long military campaign designed to push al-Shabaab fighters out of the Somali capital. African Union peacekeeping forces, who have been operating under a U.N. mandate, say the military action is designed to inhibit al-Shabaab’s ability to hide behind civilians and limit civilian casualties, the African Union has said.
The Bakara market is the city’s commercial hub and the site where one of two U.S. Blackhawk helicopters were downed by militants in 1993.
Raging street battles in the capital since February have pitted government troops, backed by the African Union, against the jihadist movement al-Shabaab, which controls much of southern Somalia.
Al-Shabaab is waging a war against Somalia’s government in an effort to implement a stricter form of Islamic law, or sharia. Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991, and fighting between the rebels and government troops has escalated the humanitarian crisis in the famine-ravaged country
The peacekeeping force is charged with protecting key government and strategic installations in Mogadishu, including the port, airport and presidential palace. It is the de facto military force of the weak, transitional Somali government.