Johannesburg - Somali government troops and their African Union (AU) allies are preparing for a large-scale offensive against al-Shabaab militants, according to multiple witnesses and government officials, the Voice of America (VOA) has reported.
This follows Somali President, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, and other Somali leaders threatening to retaliate for the massive truck and car bombing in the capital Mogadishu on October 14 that killed over 300 people.
Although the militant group al-Shabaab didn’t claim responsibility for the attack, the group has carried out repeated attacks of this sort against both civilians and government targets in the capital and the countryside and has declared its intentions to overthrow the internationally-backed government.
There has been a significant military build-up in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, with thousands of troops amassing in the area. Trucks carrying military supplies, technical vehicles mounted with heavy machine-guns, and APCs in Afgoye are being deployed.
A government official confirmed another build-up is taking place around Bale Dogle airport, 90 kilometres northwest of Mogadishu.
In preparation for the military offensive Abdullahi has been searching for support from other East African countries, especially contributors to the AU force in Somalia, AMISOM, and to this effect visited Uganda, Ethiopia and Djibouti this week.
Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire is currently in Turkey seeking military and financial support from Ankara which is a strong supporter of the Somali government.
The Turks opened their biggest overseas military base in Mogadishu in September and have plans to train Somali troops ahead of AMISOM's planned pullout from Somalia next year.
Meanwhile, the fight against al-Shabaab continues with at least five people killed and five others injured in a clash between Somali government forces and the militants in the Lower Jubba region on Thursday.
In other fighting 15 people were killed and 20 others injured when militiamen belonging to Puntland and Galmudug regional states clashed in the village of Godad, 40 kilometres west of Galkayo, in central Somalia.
Regional entities often clash in Somalia in land and power disputes unrelated to the conflict with al-Shabaab.