The single deadliest booming in the Somali capital last week which has killed over 358 people, mostly civilians has prompted the Somali government to go ahead with a new upcoming earlier than initially planned.
By Judy Maina, email@example.com
NAIROBI – Somali president Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is seeking to rally greater support for an upcoming military operation against Al Shabab group blamed for last weeks’ deadliest attack in the Somali capital, promising that allied African Union and Somali troops will recapture areas still under rebels’ control.
The bombing by a massive truck bomb in Mogadishu has killed at least 358 people and injured hundreds, in the country’s worst attack. The attack which sparked an outrage across Somalia and beyond had the horn of Africa president declared a new major offensive against al-Shabab.
Mr. Mohamed who is currently in Ethiopia for talks with the Ethiopia prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn on his second leg of a three-day trip to the countries that contributed to the strong 22000 African Union force known as AMISOM in Somalia said that his country was united in fighting Al Shabab.
“We need unity and support in fighting the terrorist group which is threatening the region’s security.” he told reporters in Addis Ababa, following a one-day visit to Uganda where he held talks that largely focused on the upcoming offensive against the Somalia-based rebel group with Ugandan president Yoweri Museveni.
According to diplomats in Nairobi, the planned offensive involving thousands of soldiers could not be left to Somalia which is struggling to rebuild its fractured army alone, thus requiring a greater support from regional powers to defeat Al Shabab.
Meanwhile, the Somali leader who is also commander-in-chief of armed forces has declared a state of war in his country which held a three day mourning for the victims who were killed in the bombing last week called by many as Somalia’s 9/11, saying that ‘clearing’ Al Shabab out of the country remained the most pressing issue, and promised that victory over the group was near.
“You must be prepared to take on the enemy. We must sacrifice our blood to liberate our country.” he said, dressed in an a green military uniform and speaking to military cadets.
The president has earlier vowed that he’d be the first to go to the frontlines once the offensive kicks off.
Amid chaos and bloody scenes, Somali leaders’ responses in the aftermath of the bombing had earned them praise among Somalis..
As the shocking news came up, the president and his prime minister have rushed to hospitals to visit wounded victims, while the Mogadishu mayor has joined hundreds of angry protestors who took to the streets.
With a red headband, Mr. Thabit Abdi who despite potential security threats has mingled out with the crowd has vowed that his city would not allow to see its spirit and desire for peace shattered, but would remain resilient instead.
Many of the country’s elites and leaders have also responded to pleas for blood donations by hospitals overwhelmed by hundreds of causalities.
However, the mass rallies that at times felt more like a wartime rally than protests served as a rallying call for the country’s leaders who called for citizens to join army in the upcoming offensive. Some of the protestors shouted in support of the leaders’ calls, terming it a ‘call of duty’.
“The evil enemy must know that we are more united than ever before.” Mr. Abdi said amid applause.
In the meantime, Somali president, seen by many of his fellow Somalis as the most popular leader the country ever had who is expected to return to the country this week will also seek support from the country’s upper and lower houses before troops launch the offensive.
“We must rally behind the president in his efforts to liberate our country,” said Naimo Ibrahim, a Somali senator by phone from Mogadishu.
“We are elected to protect our people and put our nation’s interests first.” She said.
An emergency speech by Somali president scheduled to take place at the parliament last week was postponed indefinitely for security reasons ahead of planned large rallies in the city. He has since delivered his planned speech at a military training outside the capital, telling military cadets to prepare for the upcoming offensive one day before he embarked on a three-day trip to AU troops’ contributing countries that started with Uganda, which officials said voiced its support towards the offensive.
According to experts, the plan by Somali government to launch a major offensive was a long time coming before the worst attack in Mogadishu. However, the attack which has killed over 358 people, mostly civilians has prompted the government to go ahead with it earlier than initially planned.
“It was in the final offensive, just few months to go before the attack.” said Jacob Moses, a Nairobi-based horn of Africa analyst of the offensive plan.
With a new army chief Gen. Abdiwali Jama Gorod to lead, the upcoming offensive which officials say will have to be launched in few weeks time would concentrate the two neighboring regions Middle Shabelle and Lower Shabelle that are close to the Somali capital in the first phase.
Despite being blamed for the massive attack by Somali government, Al Shabab which hasn’t so far commented on still controls large swathes in the south and central Somalia.
(Additional reporting by Alleastafrica reporter in Mogadishu, editing by John Thiongo)
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