The spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has denied reports that stepped-up attacks by hard-line insurgents forced peacekeeping troops to move to new positions across the Somali capital, Mogadishu.
Major Barigye Ba-Huko said AMISOM started the redeployments early in the year as part of its mandate to help President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed’s Transitional Federal Government against the insurgents.
“It’s a process that troops allowing (are) going to continue. But, for now, suffice it to say that we have got at least one new position in the southwest, two (or) three new positions in the center of the city and another three in the northeast and north of the city,” he said.
The hard-line insurgents, including Al-Shabab, have refused to recognize the transitional administration and vowed to overthrow it.
Last month, the insurgents launched several attacks against the presidential palace and demanded President Sharif stepped down. They were repelled by AMISOM and government troops.
The insurgents have intensified their attacks during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. But, AMISOM spokesman Ba-Huko said the peacekeeping troops will continue taking up new positions in the capital, Mogadishu despite increased insurgent attacks.
“The significance of this movement has absolutely nothing to do with being squeezed by any extremist group here. But, rather, that it is part of our mandate. That mandate talks about stabilizing the whole of Somalia, not stabilizing just the airports or the seaports,” Ba-Huko said.
He also said AMISOM’s effort of fully implementing its mandate has been hampered by the “shortage” of troops. He praised the pledge by African heads of state and government of increasing peacekeeping troops levels in Somalia.
Analysts say the presence of foreign troops has been a rallying cry for insurgents who have been recruiting young Somalis to fight the government as well as AMISOM troops.