Somali official: Halting offensive gives ‘dying’ militants chance to regroup

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Having halted the African Union led offensive against the Al-Qaeda linked militant group in Somalia was awarded Al-Shabab with a greater scope to group and repaired the group’s ‘sapping’ morale after the loss of most of its major strongholds.

Speaking at the at the Mogadishu’s national consultative forum on Tuesday, Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden, the president of the South-Western State warned that by taking advantage of the void, Al-Shabab has stepped up its asymmetrical attacks and set up hideouts on the highway linking Mogadishu and Baidoa, launching attacks on government and AU forces.

Mr. Hassan has survived an attack on his convoy traveling between Mogadishu and the agricultural town of Afgoye last month, killing two of his bodyguards. AL-Shabab has immediately claimed the responsibility for the attack.

“Every offensive troops launched gets halted when Al-Shabab’s military capability is weakened – people are losing hope of us.” Mr. Aden said.

The multi-pronged offensive against the areas still under Al-Shabab group was halted seven months ago, giving Al-Shabab more freedom to organize guerrilla attacks and recaptured towns and villages across Somalia.

The group has also extended its reach into the neighbouring where its fighters have set up bases in the dense Boni forest in northern Kenya, however, the Kenyan security forces that stepped up its intelligence gathering and attacks against the group.

The offensive dubbed ‘Indian Ocean’ was halted after Al-Shabab fighters launched multiple deadly attacks including two complex attacks on the African Union military bases that killed dozens of soldiers few months ago. The attackers have also looted the bases.

Aden says the latter has left public hesitant in supporting the government, fearing a possible return of Al-Shabab which may punish them if it recaptures lost grounds.

According to the African Union, the offensive which saw troops recaptured several strongholds from Al-Shabab  was halted despite the adoption of the United Nations Security Council 2014 resolution that provided logistical and fund for additional troops deployed in January this year to bolster AMISOM which would enabled the joint forces to launch fresh operations.