A well-executed, multi-pronged military offensive against Al Shabaab-held positions secures former Defense Ministry buildings, a disused milk factory and former military oicers’ club. Now, 80 percent of Mogadishu’s 2 million residents live in areas under AMISOM and Transitional Federal Government (TFG) control
By KENNEDY ABWAO
The long-awaited joint military offensive by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the Somali authorities against Islamic militants occupying key installations in Mogadishu executed last month had been a year in planning. As per strategy, the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces would lead the charge against the rebel positions while the AMISOM would follow closely behind, to hold seized ground.
Somalia’s Defence Forces, emboldened by the graduation of several soldiers from the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) camps in Manyani in February, and boosting of AMISOM troop levels, launched the military offensive from several locations. The operation has been hailed as a major success, which has enabled the TFG to gain more ground against its rivals.
Somali Defence Minister Abdul Hakim Mohamed Haji said the advance by his forces and AMISOM troops was a critical part of pushing Mogadishu’s armed opposition away from the populated area and ultimately out of Mogadishu entirely. “These successes came on the back of recent increases in the number of AMISOM and TFG forces on the ground in Mogadishu. It shows what can be achieved if we are provided with the necessary resources to undertake the mission,” Haji said.
The Ugandan contingent launched the offensive against the Al Shabaab-held positions while the Burundian contingent descended on the former Defense Ministry buildings, which the rebels had turned into effective military bases. At the end of the fighting, the combined force claimed victory, seizing back the former defense ministry, a disused milk factory in the capital and the former military officers’ club, all described by AMISOM as key to the battle for Mogadishu.
“These are strategic areas as the trenches and tunnels there are used as re-supply and infiltration routes to attack AMISOM and TFG positions,” an AU official said.AMISOM estimates that the area under the joint control of its troops has increased to about 80 percent of the entire civilian population in Mogadishu.
“The Somali and the AU forces now effectively control half of Mogadishu. Importantly, 80 per cent of Mogadishu’s 2 million residents roughly live in areas under the AMISOM and the TFG control,” the force said in a separate statement.
Boubacar Diarra, the AU Special Envoy to Somalia, played down the injuries and the heavy casualties sustained by the force during the offensive.“Just as in most peacekeeping operations, AMISOM and TFG have sustained some casualties in the course of winning new positions from the insurgents,” said Diarra.
The Burundian contingent is thought to have lost 43 soldiers while a further 11 Ugandan troops are also believed to have either been killed or taken prisoners during the latest offensive, which extended to long-held Shabaab positions.
Ghana’s former President Jerry Rawlings, currently serving as AU’s High Representative to Somalia, has been calling for a change of strategy in Somalia. “It has to be said that we are not in this business to fight a war but to seek and enforce peace,” Rawlings, who visited wounded AMISOM troops at the Aga Khan University Hospital, said.
Speaking during a strategy meeting with European Union (EU) envoys in Nairobi, Rawlings called for political dialogue between the TFG and the Al Shabaab.“I will do everything in my power to offer overtures to the factions in Somalia for talks towards lasting peace,” he added.
The UN Special Envoy to Somalia Augustine Mahiga is optimistic the current military offensive will lead to the complete pacification of Mogadishu.
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