31 May, 2013

War in Somalia: Map of Al Shabaab Control (June 2013)

Since the beginning of the year, Somalia's federal government and its allies have made some major breakthroughs in the war to take back the country from Al Shabaab, Somalia's local branch of Al Qaeda. This is the third installment in our series of Al Shabaab control maps, marking territorial changes since our last Somalia map update in December 2012.

Map of Al Shabaab control in southern Somalia just before June 2013, highlighting recent advances by government and African Union troops since December. Includes the newly recaptured Mogadishu-Baidoa highway corridor, plus Bulo Marer, site of crashed U.S. drone aircraft. Also marks claimed territory of Jubaland state.
Southern Somalia: recent government-allied advances in the war against Al Shabaab. Original map by Evan Centanni. Incorporates elements from this blank map by Eric Gaba and this locator map by TheEmirr. (license: CC BY-SA).

Connecting Mogadishu and Baidoa
After news came in of the Somali Federal Government and its allies completing their control of southern Somalia's major cities last fall, further progress against the Al Qaeda affiliate group Al Shabaab at first made only slow progress. But since the beginning of this year, at least one major breakthrough has been made.

Background & Actor Profiles: War in Somalia - The Retreat of Al Shabaab 

After several years of being cut off by Al Shabaab, Mogadishu and the key inland city of Baidoa were finally reconnected in February after African Union and Somali forces captured Burhakaba, the last major town lying on the highway between the two cities. As a result, the Al Shabaab's territory in Somalia has been split into two pieces, though security is probably not so tight that the militants can't slip back and forth across the narrow band held by the Somali government.

Flag of Somalia Country Name:  
Somalia (English)
Soomaaliya (Somali)
• aṣ-Ṣūmāl (Arabic)
Official Name:  
Federal Republic of Somalia (English)
Jamhuuriyadda Federaalka Soomaaliya (Somali)
Jumhūriyyat aṣ-Ṣūmāl al-Fideraaliya (Arabic) 
Capital: Mogadishu
Ethiopian and Somali troops had previously taken the town of Dinsoor, another major town in the region of Baidoa, in mid-December (just after our previous Somalia map update). And fighting in the area continued after the captured of Burhakaba as well, with the Baidoa suburb of Aw Diinle falling to Al Shabaab in March. Although it was reported recaptured soon afterwards, Al Shabaab forces were apparently still present until just a couple weeks ago.

Ethiopian Withdrawal
The town of Hudur north of Baidoa was recaptured by Al Shabaab in March after Ethiopian forces withdrew from the town. Ethiopia soon reported that it would be withdrawing completely from the war in Somalia in the near future.

This is important news, since the Ethiopians have been the major force in the war against Al Shabaab near the Ethiopia-Somalia border for the past year and a half. The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has slowly rolled into position to fill the gap, but Ethiopia has still not yet completely withdrawn.

Meanwhile, Somalia's own army reportedly scored a victory with the capture of Tiyeglow town east of Hudur in May. Hudur itself, however, is apparently still Al Shabaab territory, despite early reports suggesting it was recaptured by Somali forces.

Somalia's Airspace
The federal government of Somalia announced recently that the country's airspace will be returning to its control after nearly two decades of U.N. stewardship. However, the northern Somali breakaway state of Somaliland (not shown on this map) has reacted with anger, announcing the seizure of its own airspace from the U.N. in order to preempt the takeover by Mogadishu.

And in other news related to air power, the Somali government and AMISOM last February seized a strategic airfield north of the town of Jowhar, which will help the allies project their power as they push the war ever deeper into Al Shabaab's remaining territory. The U.S. also has a covert presence in Somalia's skies and one of its drone aircraft is believed to have crashed this week over the Al Shabaab base of Bulo Marer, not far from the port city of Marka.

Political Struggle for Jubaland
After the capture of Kismayo port by Kenyan forces last September, a political power struggle has emerged in the city. Local groups, backed by Kenya and other neighboring countries, have declared an autonomous area called Jubaland, which claims three of the surrounding administrative regions as a federal state of Somalia.

The central government in Mogadishu, which did not approve the plan, has vigorously opposed Jubaland's formation, but political conflict and confusion continues in Kismayo, where the leader of the Ras Kamboni militia is now claiming to be the state's elected president.

Stay Up-to-Date: See past and future updates to this map by filtering for posts about Al Shabaab, or view all Somalia articles.

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Graphic of Somali flag is in the public domain (source).