Somalia: regional leaders meet to discuss fight against Al-Shabaab

by Abdulhaqq Obisesan Oladimeji

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has hosted a summit of leaders from several neighbouring countries to discuss the regional fight against islamist insurgents Al-Shabaab.

The meeting in Mogadishu involved the Somali leader along with Kenya’s William
Ruto, Djibouti’s Ismail Omar Guelleh and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

The four are du SE e to discuss a coordinated military offensive against the Al-Qaeda linked group, which has been waging an insurgency in the troubled Horn of Africa nation for more than 15 years.

Stringent security restrictions are in force in the Somali capital, including the suspension of all commercial flights into Mogadishu.

After taking office in May last year, President Mohamud declared an “all-out war” on the jihadists, rallying Somalis to help flush out members of the islamist group..

In recent months, the army and local clan militia have retaken territory from the militants in an operation backed by US air strikes and an African Union force known as ATMIS.

But the jihadists, who were driven out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011, have frequently staged attacks.

Defence ministers and security chiefs of the four countries met in Mogadishu on Tuesday to prepare for the summit.

“The summit agrees to make the final push for joint operations in the areas that remain under the terrorists to completely liberate the whole of Somalia from Al-Shabaab,” the leaders said in a statement released after the meeting.

African Union troops on the frontline
“This collaboration is expected to lead to the quick liberation of the country from the renegades who have been dealt heavy blows on the battlefield in the past few weeks,” the Somali government said on Tuesday.

Al-Shabaab remains entrenched in the countryside from where they have carried out numerous attacks both in Somalia and in neighbouring countries.

In the deadliest attack since the offensive was launched last year, 121 people were killed in two car bomb explosions at the education ministry in Mogadishu in October.

The terror group has also been active in eastern Kenya, which is a contributor to ATMIS, the African Transitional Mission in Somalia.

The 20,000-strong African Union force, formerly known as AMISOM, has a more offensive remit than its predecessor.

The force is drawn from Uganda, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Kenya, with troops deployed in southern and central Somalia.

Its goal is to gradually reduce troop numbers to zero by the end of 2024 with security to be assumed by Somalia’s army and police.

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