Unexpected gain Islamic militants have withdrawn from Mogadishu, but vow to fight on

IT WAS a victory for the African Union (AU) troops. For four years they vied for control of Mogadishu, the capital, assisted by Somali soldiers allied to the weak transitional government. On August 5th they got it. Their powerful offensive threatened to encircle the positions of the Shabab militia, which is linked to al-Qaeda. In previous months it had lost much ground. Under cover of night it withdrew in lorries from wrecked seaside districts. In central Mogadishu the Bakara market is now free of the militant jihadists, and traders can breathe more easily.

Not surprisingly, the unelected but internationally recognised Somali transitional government crowed in triumph. A new age, it said, had been ushered in. The AU force, known as AMISOM, was more measured. The withdrawal marks the start of a guerrilla war, it said warily. AMISOM has 12,000 troops, nearly all from Uganda and Burundi. Its commander, Major-General Fred Mugisha, reckons troop numbers have to rise to 20,000 by September if the gains are to be kept secure.

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