President of the Federal Government of Somalia (FGS), HE Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, and the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, Ambassador Maman S. Sidikou, along with senior military officers from the Somali National Army (SNA) and the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) today briefed the media on the progress of Operation Indian Ocean. Also present were Mohamed Ali Hagaa – State Minister for Defence and Mohamed Ismail Shurie – Deputy Minister for Public Works and Reconstruction.
The Deputy Chief of the Defence Staff, General Abdirisak, firstly provided a map brief that clearly indicated the catastrophic loss of territory,that al-Shabaab had suffered between the beginning of Operation Eagle in January 2014 and the continuing military offensive, Operation Indian Ocean, which commenced in September 2014.
General Abdirisak gave the background to the current situation: “The first operation – Operation Eagle – began in March this year and resulted in 10 significant towns being liberated. The second operation, Operation Indian Ocean, has focused on Somalia’s strategic coastal towns. Eight towns, including the al-Shabaab strongholds of Barawe and Adale, have been liberated so far.” He then went on to explain the strategy behind the selection of towns, chosen to disrupt al-Shabaab resupply routes and then to isolate each pocket of resistance for detailed destruction. He noted also that Koday had been recovered only 48 hours earlier and that further towns could be expected to fall imminently.
The Chief of the Defence Staff, General Elmi, then spoke, offering thanks to the soldiers of both the SNA and AMISOM, who he described as ‘African brothers’. He also noted the need for continued efforts to build the capacity of the Somali National Army and the Somali security forces as a whole to meet the demands of the future as Somalia stabilises after years of lawlessness.
The AMISOM Force Commander, Lieutenant General Silas Ntigurirwa echoed General Elmi’s comments and thanked the international community for its support.
The Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (SRCC) for Somalia and Head of AMISOM, Ambassador Maman S. Sidikou, then addressed the media: “Following the adoption of United Nations Security Council resolution 2124 in November last year, additional troops and other resources were deployed in January this year to bolster AMISOM. Because of this we have been able to launch fresh operations.
“Just 48 hours ago, Somali forces, with only logistical and surveillance support from AMISOM and our UN partners, liberated the southern port city of Koday, one of last few natural seaports that was still controlled by al-Shabaab. This further denies al-Shabaab the convenience of a sea-port to rearm themselves, as well as use it as an entry and exit point for foreign fighters. Other smaller but significant villages like Bula Haji near Koday, have also been liberated in the Lower Juba region.
“As of now, the only significant towns still under al-Shabaab control are Jamaame, Jilib, Buale and Sakow in Middle Juba Region, Diinsor in Bay region and Bardere in Gedo region. There are also a few other smaller towns like El-Dere in Middle Shabelle.
“Let me assure our Somali brothers and sisters that, working with the Federal Government and our international partners, we will not leave any stone unturned in the fight against al-Shabaab. We are confident that, working together, we will overcome the al-Shabaab menace.
“AMISOM is happy to report an improved security situation in the capital Mogadishu and generally in areas under the Federal Government’s control. There have been a few desperate attacks, mainly in retaliation for the massive losses suffered by the insurgents during our various operations. Attempted attacks on Parliament and Villa Somalia were successfully dealt with by AMISOM, working with Somalia’s national security forces. We remain vigilant and condemn all attacks on innocent Somali citizens.
“Finally, let me take this opportunity to thank the people and Federal Government of Somalia, and in particular, the leadership of the Federal Government for the positive gains we are recording and I look forward to continuing to work closely with them to achieve even more.”
The President then addressed the media. He began by recognising the efforts of the soldiers of the SNA and AMISOM: “I wish to thank the officers and men of the Somali National Army and the AMISOM forces for their efforts. We owe them a debt of gratitude. They have risked their lives in the name of a free and democratic Somalia.