Somalia: Africa unites against al-Shabab extremism

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The African Union has embarked on an all out offensive against al-Shabab militia in Somalia in order to bring an elusive civility and stability to the Horn of Africa nation. The first major assail carried out in Mogadishu on Monday has claimed at least 11 people, mainly Islamist militiamen.

“We have pushed the enemy back from some of their locations in northern Mogadishu today. We killed four of their fighters and unfortunately three of our soldiers also made their ultimate sacrifice during the clashes,” a Somali security official Hasan Abdulahi was quoted as saying.

African Union officials say the attack was to force away the al-Shabab militants from two strategic locations in the north of Mogadishu from where they fired mortars at government buildings.

The intense AU offensive against al-Shabab comes after the Islamist extreme group took its threat beyond the war-stricken borders of Somalia.

The extreme Islamist group recently attacked Kampala, Uganda and left 76 dead; an action the group said was to punish Uganda for deploying troops to, AMISOM, the AU mission in Somalia.

As a result, the pan-African bloc currently holding a summit in Kampalahas moved to bolster AU forces to its full strength of 8,000. African Union commission Chief Jean Ping said the mission could soon swell to 10,000 soldiers.

“This summit has just approved the requests made by the Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD). They would reinforce the 6,000 Ugandan and Burundian soldiers already in Mogadishu for the African Union,” a six-nation east African grouping, which had asked for 2,000 extra troops, said, as reported by AFP.

The African Union commissioner for peace and security, Ramtane Lamamra, told reporters that it was only “a question of a few short weeks” before the reinforcements arrive in Somalia and render AMISOM — which deployed in March 2007 — “more robust”.

Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin told reporters that the summit has approved calls for reinforcing the budget of the AU mission in Somalia and its equipment.

“We all think that AMISOM must be reinforced immediately, along with the means of action of the Somali transitional government. The priority must therefore be to reinforce the security forces, the police, and the civil and financial institutions of the transitional government. We are now at a stage in which all Africans understand the urgency of the situation,” Seyoum Mesfin added.

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