Somali president urges troop reinforcements to battle Islamists
In this Feb. 13, 2012, photo, an armed member of the militant group al-Shabab attends a rally on the outskirts of Mogadishu, Somalia. International military forces carried out a pre-dawn strike Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013 against foreign fighters in the same southern Somalia village where U.S. Navy SEALS four years ago killed a most-wanted al-Qaida operative, officials said.
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud called for more support for his military to help sustain gains made against al-Qaida-linked militants as the African Union warned the militia is gaining strength again.
The African Union's request for 6,235 more personnel, including 2,550 "surge troops," should be complemented by a strengthening of Somalia's own security forces, Mohamoud said in an interview here Sunday. While the AU deployment will be needed in the country for the next two years, the presence of foreign soldiers in Somalia may encourage increased support for the militants, he said.
"What we want is for international community to understand that in this type of war only Somali forces can go into the community and pick them up," he said. "If foreigners go in to community and try and pick them up, they only create more problems and more grievance that makes further support for al- Shabaab."
Somalia's central administration in the capital, Mogadishu, is trying to establish order following more than two decades of civil war since the fall of Mohamed Siad Barre's dictatorship in 1991. It is struggling to spread its authority to areas seized from al-Shabaab militants since 2011 including Kismayo, which was a hub for the rebels to collect taxes from illegal trading.
The militia, which seeks to establish an Islamic state in Somalia, is growing in numbers through forced recruitment and is still raising funds from illicit exports, the African Union said in an Oct. 10 report. The continental body has more than 17,000 security forces in Somalia from Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for an attack last month in neighboring Kenya that killed at least 61 civilians and six security forces. The insurgents had threatened to strike in retaliation for an incursion by Kenyan soldiers that began in 2011 to fight the militants.
Mohamoud said the attack in Nairobi, along with bombings in Mogadishu, demonstrate that al-Shabaab is defeated militarily and is "very desperate."