Image Source: STRATFOR
Ethiopian forces recently withdrew from several locations in Somalia's central Galgaduud region, according to reports by Jowhar and on several social media outlets over the weekend. Ethiopian troops left the towns of Dhusamareb in the northern part of the region and Ceelbuur, further to the south. Leaving Dhusamareb is unlikely to create a vacuum that Somali Islamist militia al Shabaab could exploit, as local forces and militants are already very active in the area and are competing for control. Ceelbuur could be another story; al Shabaab has recently operated in the area around the town. Reports indicated that Ethiopian vehicles crossed into Somalia around the time of the troop relocations, suggesting the added vehicles were sent to provide additional mobility for the withdrawing forces. Recent reports have also indicated additional forces arriving in Beledweyne, the capital of Hiran region, which lies just to the south of Galgaduud.
With no precise information on troop numbers available, it is unclear how Ethiopia is adjusting its posture within Somalia at this point. That said, witness accounts and local media reports paint a picture that clearly seems to suggest that Ethiopia continues to reshape its presence inside the country. Adding to that, Ethiopia has withdrawn troops from a number of locations inside Somalia over the past six months. It is not completely clear what prompted that course of action, though speculation has centered on the need to bring troops home to quell potential insurrection.
In related news, al Shabaab militants carried out two separate drive-by assassinations in the capital, Mogadishu, on March 25. An Education Ministry employee and a district official were killed, along with two of the official's bodyguards. The assassinations are indicative of al Shabaab's evolving tactics, particularly in Mogadishu. While they have long been used in many other parts of the world, drive-by shootings have been relatively rare in Somalia.