Somali gov't to wage Mogadishu offensive "with U.S. help in weeks": officer

09:48, March 11, 2010      

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The Somali government will begin within weeks the much anticipated major onslaught to retake the Somali capital Mogadishu from Islamist groups with help from the U. S. military, a Somali military officer said Wednesday.

Although Somali government officials have either been evading the whole question of whether the United States will get involved in the much speculated offensive or been noncommittal in their answers, some within the government military seeking anonymity, said the plan is in the final stages.

"It could be in weeks because we have been planning for this (offensive) for sometime and we have been coordinating with the United States because without their help this may not be a success, " a senior Somali military commander told Xinhua in Mogadishu,

The commander in the Somali capital Mogadishu added that Somali government forces would, as he put it, take the lion's share in its drive to reclaim the restive capital once the offensive gets underway.

The U.S. military and the 5,000 African Union peacekeepers will back the thousands of newly trained soldiers of the Somali government to wrestle the important and largest city which has remained the seat of government for the Somali State for 50 years.

Many analysts here believed that any side which manages to control the whole of Mogadishu is in essence in control of the whole country as the city has been and still is the area which generates most of the political and economic activities in the whole of war-ravaged country.

"It is make or break for both the Somali government which controls only part of this important city and for rebels who claim to control most of the south and centre of Somalia for control of Mogadishu ," said Ali Mohamed, an analyst in Mogadishu .

A senior U.S. military commander said on Tuesday the United States would support the Somali transitional government to retake the national capital Mogadishu .

Speaking to a Senate hearing on Somalia , William Ward, who runs the U.S. Africa Command, said the Somali government's efforts in retaking Mogadishu is "something that we would look to do in support."

Both the Somali government and Islamist insurgent fighters have been engaged in war of words and display of force since the talk of the offensive began several weeks ago.

The radical Islamist group of Al Shabaab which has, for the past two years, been waging deadly insurgence against Somali government and African Union peacekeeping forces expressed defiance in reacting to the U.S. support of Somali government offensive.

"It is just the usual American bluff and intimidation which will never frighten us. Even if they truly come and back the apostate government we will defeat them," Ali Mohamoud Rage, spokesman for the group told reporters in Mogadishu this week.

The New York Times reported on Friday the United States is helping the Horn of Africa nation's government put together a major offensive to take back the capital, providing training and support. The broadsheet also cited unnamed U.S. officials as saying that Pentagon may send Special Forces to help, as well as striking militants from the sky.

The U.S. military has recently been carrying out surveillance and air strikes on Islamist targets in Somalia where two senior Al Shabaab leaders were killed while in the meantime it provided some military support for the Somali government in their fight with radical groups.

Washington, as well as other capitals, considers the group which recently pledged allegiance to Al Qaeda, as a terrorist entity and banned it from operating in their respective countries. Britain is considering following suit.

Source: Xinhua
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