Somalia launches new offensive against al-Shabaab
Somalia | The president sets a 60-day deadline for the group to surrender
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 4/07/17, 10:35 am
The new Somali president on Thursday fired and replaced the country’s top security officials and called on extremist group al-Shabaab to surrender within 60 days in a new offensive against terrorism.
The announcement by President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo follows a recently signed directive allowing U.S. troops more leniency to carry out strikes against al-Shabaab.
The president replaced the country’s military commander, director of national security and intelligence, commander of police, and head of prison forces. Farmajo said the country would pardon Somali youth extremist fighters who surrender and provide them with education and jobs.
“We tell the young, brainwashed al-Shabaab fighters that they have a 60-day deadline to lay down their arms with which they use to kill people and come to us,” said Farmajo, who donned a military uniform. “We shall welcome them with open arms.”
Farmajo won the presidential elections in February and vowed to restore security and political stability to the country. Al-Shabaab took over much of southern Somalia in late 2006. Although the group has lost most of its territory, it continues with suicide attacks across the country.
A roadside bomb in Somalia’s lower Shabelle region exploded Thursday evening and killed at least 20 people. Earlier Wednesday, a car bomb at a restaurant in the capital, Mogadishu, killed at least seven people.
The new offensive comes after a similar increase in military action by the United States. The U.S. government on March 29 signed a directive declaring parts of Somalia as areas of active combat. The new directive allows U.S. troops to overstep vetting processes in carrying out attacks against al-Shabaab.
The United States has continued to expand its mission in the country in recent years, including special forces ground operations and continued airstrikes against al-Shabaab. The new directive came as several African countries pulled out their troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) battling the terror group. Ebrahim Deen with South Africa’s Afro Middle East Center said Farmajo’s announcement is timely because the Somali troops lack the capacity to combat al-Shabaab alone.
“It’s no real coincidence,” Deen said. “Most are very fearful that without AMISOM troops, Somalia’s military will collapse.”
Deen said the military offensive could be effective, but Somalia also needs a political and social response to al-Shabaab, noting the group’s insurgency has grown out of public grievances that must be addressed.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.