Ugandan soldiers, operating under the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), advanced towards Buurhkaba from their former position in the town of Leego alongside members of the Somali National Army (SNA). The purpose of such an advance is to eventually open up the road from Mogadishu to Baidoa and connect the two citys currently under AMISOM's control. AU UN IST PHOTO / TOBIN JONES.
The African Union Mission in Somalia said troops will continue to intensify fight against al-Shabab despite reducing troop numbers early this year and the disruptions brought by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Richard Otto, contingent commander of Sector 1 troops, said the reduction of troop numbers by 1,000 spread across all the five troop-contributing countries had not affected operations in his area of responsibility.
"I have troops who were supposed to rotate out but have not because of this situation. Most of the countries have restricted their airspaces and border posts, but this is aimed at protecting and controlling the spread of the (COVID-19) disease from other countries.
My troops have been informed and they are aware. It has not affected their morale," Otto said in a statement issued on Saturday evening.
Since December 2017, The AU mission has been reducing its troop numbers in line with relevant UN Security Council decisions. Ugandan troops are in charge of Sector 1, which includes the Lower Shabelle region and Mogadishu.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sector 1 has had to put on hold the rotation of its troops both in and out of the mission but Otto noted that this has not affected operations or dampened the morale of the troops.
Otto said that al-Shabab has been weakened and has now resorted to using improvised explosive devices and shelling mortars, which have often landed in population centers and caused harm to innocent civilians following a string of defeats.
Otto said that a key factor in the fight against al-Shabab has been the increasing capabilities of the Somali National Army as seen by the SNA's capacity to fight and hold ground.
Otto said counter-offensive operations that resulted in the capture of major bridge towns, especially of Janaale, in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia early this year had dealt a huge blow to al-Shabab, denying the militants freedom of movement and operation, and seriously curtailing their ability to wage war.