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With the ousting of Somalia’s long-time dictator, Siad Barre, in 1991, few then could have predicted that for the next two decades the country would be in an almost permanent state of civil war. Born amongst this anarchy, al Shabab came into being after the defeat of Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union (ICU) by the country’s Transitional Federal Government and its Ethiopian backed forces. Representing the more radical arm of the ICU, al Shabab immediately set to work fighting off what it saw as the foreign invaders.

Allied to al Qaeda and branding its own form of radical Islam, al Shabab is notorious for imposing a particularly oppressive form of rule in the areas it controls. This not only includes the banning of many forms of entertainment, such as football, but also imposing harsh punishments to anyone who breaks its rules.

In 2007, with the Ethiopian’s withdrawal from Mogadishu, Uganda under the African Union landed in Mogadishu to a find a city in chaos and began the slow job of slowly taking it back. Almost eight years later, the African Union Mission in Somalia – now composed of more than six troop contributing countries – has succeeded in not only kicking Al Shbab out of Mogadishu, but also out of most of the country.

 
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A Ugandan soldier peers over the top of an armored vehicle in order to try and get to a mounted weapon shortly after an advancing convoy is ambushed along the Afgoye-Baidoa Corridor. Too weak to fight in head-to-head combat anymore, Al Shabab has turned mainly to asymmetric warfare when battling the African Union.

 
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In Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, a soldier stands on the roof of a Casspir. Originally designed by South Africa’s apartheid government to defend against black rule, Casspirs are now one of the African Union's most effective tools in the war against Al Shabab - with their v-shaped design particularly effective in dissipating IED blasts.

 
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War graffiti, scratched onto the walls of a building formerly occupied by Al Shabab, gives a brief look into the psyche of an enemy which is rarely seen.

 
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A soldier belonging to the Somali National Army sits in a military barracks in the city of Kismayo. Composed of many different militias, turning the SNA into a unified and disciplined force will be key in the effective elimination of Al Shabab.

 
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Two tank commanders ready themselves before the beginning of an offensive to retake the Afgoye-Baidoa Corridor. The corridor serves as the main artery between the east and west of the country and connects two of its largest cities, Mogadishu and Baidoa.

 
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Soldiers march through the town of Buulomareer on their way to eventually capturing the town of Barawe, Al Shabab's main stronghold and last large port in the country.

 
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A soldier looks out the window of an armored vehicle shortly after hearing an IED go off at the head of the convoy during an offensive to retake the Afgoye-Baidoa Corridor.

 
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A crater left over by an IED explosion and a burnt trail leading off to a destroyed tank shows the type of damage the improvised weapons are capable of and the ever present danger of the terrorist group.

 
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African Union troops guide a tank through the recently captured town of Janale in the Lower Region of Somalia. While African Union troops only encountered minor resistance before coming into the town, they need to be consistently vigilante of ambushes and booby traps left over by Al Shabab.

 
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A radio operator tries to get in contact with other vehicles after having been separated from the convoy during an ambush near the town of Garbaharey.

 
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Ugandan Special Forces gather before going into the town of Bulomareer for a search operation to find Al Shabab suspects and weapons one day after the town was captured by African Union forces.

 
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A cache of mortar shells lies in an underground bunker left over from Siad Barre’s time in power. The existence of such weapons in Somalia after two decades of war show just how large the country’s stockpiles used to be and remain a steady source of material for IEDs.

 
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Ugandan soldiers, as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia, begin an offensive to retake the Afgoye-Baidoa Corridor from Al Shabab militants. Uganda is AMISOM's largest troop contributing country, with roughly six thousand troops in the country.

 
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Ugandan soldiers stand guard atop of a hill above Al Shabab's stronghold of Barawe, the evening before the city was captured by African Union and SNA forces. The defeat represented a large blow to Al Shabab, who used the town to export charcoal - one of their main sources of income.

 
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A member of the Somali National Army sits on a Technical, a vehicle consisting of a pickup truck with a large gun mounted on top that has long been popular in Somalia.

 
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A member of the Ugandan Special Forces stands guard in the early morning light of Mogadishu after a night operation to capture suspected Al Shabab militants. Although Al Shabab formally left Mogadishu in 2012, it left many militants behind in order to continue fighting an insurgency.

 
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A policewoman, belonging to the Nigerian contingent, takes part in a medal parade in Mogadishu. Nigeria is one of the main countries contributing police to the African Union Mission in Somalia.

 
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A football post, pock-marked with bullet holes in Mogadishu Stadium, stands as a stark reminder of Al Shabab’s brutality - who banned football when in power, using the stadium instead to host executions.

 
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A mentally ill woman lies on a mattress at a facility in Mogadishu, which caters for those with mental conditions.

 
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After more than two decades of civil war in Somalia, mental illness has taken a massive toll on the country with the WHO estimating that one in three Somalis has been affected by some kind of mental illness.

 
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Two soldiers can be seen through a night scope, as they search one of the city’s roads during a night operation to try and capture Al Shabab militants.

 
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The profile of a Nigerian policeman out on a night patrol in Mogadishu. No central power source and insecurity means that the city is often a dark and quiet place once the sun goes down.

 
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Suspected Al Shabab members are rounded up and blindfolded in Mogadishu during a joint night operation between the Ugandan and Somali Special Forces.

 
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Women near the town of Afgoye walk through rain to a feeding station, where aid is being distributed.

 
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Internally displaced women, living on the outskirts of Mogadishu, sit waiting for food aid. While Somalia’s humanitarian situation may be somewhat better than it has been in past years, there are still thousands in the country dependent on the international community for aid.

 
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Two Ugandan soldiers walk hand in hand on the evening before an offensive to take the town of Bulomarer.