The African Union (AU) Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) has handed over the Ceel Eglow military base located in the Middle Shabelle region to the Somali National Army (SNA) as the AU mission steps up withdrawal of its troops from the country, Report informs referring to Xinhua.

ATMIS said the latest military base marks the third base transferred in Phase Three of ATMIS troops drawdown.

ATMIS Sector Five Commander Oscal Hatungimana lauded the collaboration between the two allied forces, residents, and international partners in degrading the al-Shabab extremist group, which has engaged the government in attacks.

The strategic Ceel Eglow base, previously manned by ATMIS Burundi troops since 2019, protects the Mogadishu-Jowhar main supply routes and surrounding areas, the designated routes within an area of operations upon which the bulk of traffic flows in support of military operations and humanitarian operations.

The third phase of the ATMIS drawdown is in line with United Nations Security Council Resolutions 2628 (2022), 2670 (2022), and 2710 (2023), which mandate ATMIS to withdraw 4,000 troops by the end of June.

The drawdown continues as the AU Peace and Security Council (AUPSC) has called for a phased approach to the withdrawal of peacekeepers from Somalia to avoid a potential security vacuum.

The AUPSC has strongly backed Somalia’s request made in May for a phased approach to the Phase 3 drawdown of ATMIS to enable Mogadishu to maintain half of the troops that were expected to withdraw by the end of June.

“The AUPSC notes that the exit of ATMIS needs to be carefully harmonized with the follow-on mission that replaces it, including the harmonization of Troop Contribution Countries (TCCs), to ensure that there is no security gap between Dec. 31 and Jan. 1, 2025,” AUPSC said in it a communique released Saturday.