A new offensive against Islamist militias is a sign of hope for Somalia's fragile western-backed government
Democracy Now: US-Backed Somali Troops Prepare Major Offensive
Long-suffering residents of Mogadishu are steeling themselves for a new round of fighting as the western-backed transitional federal government (TFG) prepares to launch an offensive to expel Islamist militiamen from the Somali capital. Yet grim though the prospect is of renewed violence, the looming attack is a sign the tide may be turning in Somalia: the "good guys" are fighting back.
Speaking in London on Tuesday, Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, Somalia's president, declined to detail his plans to wrest control from the hardline al-Shabaab militia, which currently holds most of the city. Asked about reports that the US military may provide air cover during the forthcoming offensive, he said he would welcome any support the Americans and British chose to offer.
The new cash, and the red-carpet treatment afforded Sharif during his London visit (including a Downing Street meeting with Gordon Brown), reflect cautiously rising hopes in Whitehall and Washington that the former Islamic Courts Union leader, who opposed the US-backed Ethiopian intervention in 2006 and was viewed as hostile to the west, could be the man to drag Somalia back from the brink.
VOA: Senior Islamist Leader Assassinated in Somalia
In news from Africa, the New York Times reports the US is helping the Somali government prepare a major offensive to take the capital of Mogadishu from Islamist militants. Over the past six months, Somalia has farmed out young men to Djibouti, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Sudan for military instruction, and most are now back in the capital, waiting to fight.
So far, most of the US military assistance to the Somali government has been focused on training, but a US official told the Times he expects US covert forces will get involved in the offensive. The official said, “What you’re likely to see is air strikes and Special Ops moving in, hitting and getting out."
A senior insurgent leader from Hizbul Islam has been shot to death in Mogadishu, deepening a leadership crisis inside the Islamist rebel group. The official, Bare Ali Bare, was an outspoken critic of Hizbul Islam's one-time ally, al-Shabab, raising speculation that the militant group carried out the assassination.