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AU, Somali forces begin offensive against militants

Nick Kay, UN Special Representative to Somalia said on Thursday that AU peacekeepers and the Somali army have begun a major offensive against al Shabaab militants.

He, therefore, urged donors to fund logistical support.

The UN backed peacekeepers pushed the Islamist fighters out of Mogadishu in 2011, but the al Qaeda-linked group has continued to launch guerrilla-style attacks there and kept control of several towns and many rural areas.

Kay said a new offensive to capture the remaining territory had been expected ever since the UN Security Council in November authorised an increase of more than 4,000 peacekeepers for the African peacekeeping force.

He said the forces were to come from Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Burundi and Sierra Leone.

Kay said the push started this month when Ethiopian troops took control of towns in southern Somalia, including Bakool regional capital Hudur.

“The offensive is progressing quite well, the Ethiopians clearly have been doing well, recaptured several important towns in Bakool and in Gedo region,’’ he said.

Kay said al Shabaab had to be pushed out of territory where it was training more insurgents, taxing businesses and importing arms through ports.

“That’s why this AMISOM and Somali National Army offensive is really important to deprive them of those bases,” he said.

Kay said the support would see one UN agency carry out medical evacuations and provide rations, transport and tents for the Somali army.

He said this has become imperative because analysts said the Somali army’s were badly trained, poorly equipped and lacked discipline.

Kay stated that the UN Support Office for AMISOM (UNSOA) needed more funding to do its job and so far only Britain and United States have pledged a total of about 6.5 million dollars.

“The rule of thumb was that, to begin with at least, 20 million dollars would be a good amount to keep going,” he said.

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