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Military says fall of Kismayu is key to shift power in Somalia
Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Kenya said on Tuesday the anticipated fall of the key seaport of Kismayu by mid August from the grip of Al-Shabaab will be key to successful shift of power from the Somali government to a civilian administration.

Prime Minister Raila Odinga said so long as Kismayu was still under the control of the Al-Shabaab, the possibility of neutralizing the group will remain distant because the seaport served as its economic hub.

"August will be a crucial month for Somalia owing to the fact that it will be a transitional period to an elected civilian government in Mogadishu and this will only happen when the whole of the country has been liberated," Odinga said.

Kismayu, Somalia’s third largest city is considered the hub of the militant group, Al-Shabaab, which formally merged with the dreaded global terror network, the al Qaida, after several years of pledging loyalty and ideological similarities.

"Without controlling Kismayu, it’s very difficult to completely neutralize Al-Shabaab.

"It has taken time because our forces felt that to move in otherwise would have lost a lot of lives both civilian and military," Odinga said.

Last Thursday, the Kenyan soldiers backed by Somali forces carried out airstrikes in Kismayo in an attempt to force Al- Shabaab out of the port city.

"Due to that fact, Kenya Defense Forces will form part of the joint forces under African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) for a final onslaught to wrestle Kismayu from Al-Shabaab," Odinga told foreign correspondents in Nairobi when he hosted them for a working breakfast meeting.

The KDF which officially joined the African Union Peacekeeping Mission (AMISOM) on June 2 after the signing of the agreement with AU is using naval warships which are patrolling the coast off Kismayu targeting militant camps and bases in the economic hub.

Sources said several fighters of the al Qaida allied group were killed during the airstrike which has disrupted operations of the militants.

But Kismayo unlike Afgooye supplies the insurgents with steady income in the form of taxes and is an extremely strategic city for Al-Shabaab fighters who have reportedly reinforced their numbers in the port city which is home to top leadership of the ragtag.

With almost a sixth of the entire Somali territory covered militarily, the Kenyan soldiers say there is every reason to remain vigilant against possible incursion following threats by Al- Shabaab to bring down Kenya’s skyscrapers.

He said Kismayu will be attacked through land, sea and air, adding that the international community should be available to support Somalia, especially in liberated areas.

He said massive funding will be needed for this post-conflict reconstructions process.

"We urge the international community to invest in the infrastructure of hope and opportunities in Somalia, covering health, education, vocational training, transport and communications, job-creation and food production," Odinga said.

Odinga said the rehatting of KDF troops numbering 4,660 personnel to the restructured AMISON was completed last week after Kenya signed the final deal in Addis Ababa.

"Kenya moved into Somalia last October after kidnapping of local and foreign nationals by Al-Shabaab in the country became untenable.

"That is when as a country we said enough is enough," Odinga said.

He said substantive gains have been realized in areas of central Somalia that have been liberated from Al-Shabaab and civilian authority established organized.

Odinga said a nucleus Somali National Army must also be established by integrating militia groups into the TFG force and retraining them.

"They can then take control and support local administrations that must be established to resume normal social services," the PM said.

He said the militants blamed for grenade and landmine attacks in Kenya are under intensive pressure from allied forces and are already fleeing to mountain hideouts in Puntland.

"The authorities in Puntland and Gulmudug need support to prevent the fleeing militants combining with other groups," Odinga said, adding that the cross border incursion into Somalia has brought security challenges in the country.

"We are taking a number of steps in response. A program to install CCTV cameras in major urban areas is being rolled out," he said.

"Security agencies are conducting 24-hour surveillance in sensitive areas.

"We have increased naval patrol and inspection of speed boats and merchant ships."


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