Battle against al-Shabab heats up in Somalia

Buurane, Somalia - Drones, Americans, French, South Africans, Fijians, Burundians and private security contractors are all on the march deep in the sand-covered shrub lands of southern Somalia alongside the Somali national army. They are on the hunt for al-Shabab fighters. This is an offensive like no other, military officials say.
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Battle against al-Shabab heats up in Somalia

The unarmed drones fitted with high-tech cameras - part of a secret security project hidden from the public and even the soldiers on this mission - beam pictures back to a makeshift base between the farming town of Jowhar, the provincial headquarter of Middle Shabelle province, and the strategic town of Fidow which is in the hands of rebel fighters and the next target of the offensive.

Al Jazeera and the soldiers set off from Jowhar at the crack of dawn in a convoy of dozens of armoured personnel carriers, water and petrol tankers and lorries laden with ammunitions and long-life food rations to last for several days.

The Americans and French, travelling in separate armoured vehicles, are leading the offensive. Their role is mainly surveillance and when they obtain data - of enemy positions and potential ambush spots - they alert a select group of senior African Union commanders.

Al Jazeera is warned that al-shabab fighters are digging trenches to put up a fierce resistance.

But the drone is not fault-free and has to be collected several times after it crash-lands in no man’s land.

Bombs and booby traps 

It is a life-and-death offensive and every step can mean the end of a soldier

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