African peacekeepers have secured control over much of Mogadishu after terrorists from al-Shabaab withdrew from the Somali capital over the weekend. Although the group vows to return, pressure from government offensives and American drone strikes has forced al-Shabaab into retreat on many fronts.
The news that the organization had "completely vacated Mogadishu for tactical purposes," came from spokesman Ali Mohamed Rage, who also pledged the adoption of a new strategy of "hit-and-run attacks." Other media sources speculate that al-Shabaab may launch a bloody suicide bombing campaign on government and civilian targets.
On the ground, African forces quickly wiped out scattered fighters and seized over 90% of the city. Elsewhere, dozens of pickup trucks full of the group's fighters abandoned all positions and fled for the group's other strongholds in southern Somalia.
Some jihadist websites tried to spin the news as a trap for Somali government forces, including claims that al-Shabaab had heavily booby-trapped their old positions. But government troops occupied new positions throughout the city with little resistance. "We have been dreaming of this day for the last three years," said Somalia's new Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali.
Critically, the departure of al-Shabaab gives an opportunity to provide aid for hundreds of thousands of starving refugees, who are suffering from a drought that has been labeled the world's worst humanitarian disaster. Despite the positive news, rampant corruption and inefficiency are likely to hinder some efforts and endanger gains. Al-Shabaab also previously bounced back from an offensive by Ethiopian forces from 2006 to 2009.