DHOBLEY, Somalia -- Less than a mile from the Kenyan border, dozens of soldiers toting AK-47s saunter along the derelict and flooded roads that snake through Dhobley’s ramshackle homes and markets. Some are members of Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Others pledge allegiance to a local, allied militia. The majority don immaculate camouflage, though some wear casual, civilian dress.
All are pitted against the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabaab militant group that has gained a significant footing in southern Somalia since the ouster of the Union of Islamic Courts in 2006. And all welcome Kenya’s two-week-old military foray into Somalia that aims to eradicate al-Shabaab from the region.
Dhobley is one of dozens of towns in southern Somalia ravaged by incessant violence over recent years. Although TFG soldiers wrested control of the town from al-Shabaab in April, clashes have continued in Dhobley -- some as recently as late-September. A hospital on the eastern edge of town, its facade pockmarked with bullet holes and its roof collapsed, bears witness to the destruction.