Top military commanders of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) said Saturday that they had agreed to launch new, targeted military operations against al-Shabab militants in Somalia.
According to AMISOM, the new activities will be implemented in three phases in an effort to flush the terrorists from their hideouts in the region.
Speaking at the end of a five-day meeting of military commanders in Mogadishu, Simon Mulongo, the deputy special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission (DSRCC) for Somalia, explained the approach.
"The activities will consist of comprehensive operations in support of the Somalia Transition Plan and will include stability operations targeting al-Shabab hideouts and enhancing protection of population centers," said Mulongo.
Somali military officials said the planned military operations are part of the country's Transition Plan, which includes implementing a conditions-based AMISOM troop withdrawal, handing over of priority locations in Mogadishu to the Somali Security Forces, degrading al-Shabab and securing key supply routes.
"This is going to be achievable because I see a lot of clarity in our thoughts and the way we have tried to explain it in the plan," Mulongo added.
Lt. Gen. Tigabu Yilma Wondimhunegn, an Ethiopian general and the new AMISOM force commander, called for greater leadership and involvement by Somalia in the fight against al-Shabab and in the search for a lasting solution for Somalia.
"We should also work on getting the Somalis involved in these operations to enable us to succeed in our plans," he said.
Maj. Gen. Charles Tai Gituai, AMISOM deputy force commander in charge of operations and plans, said unity among the various commanders of the AMISOM troops could make the implementation of the plan very successful.
The meeting, which ended Friday, was attended by representatives of the Somali National Security Forces and other stakeholders.
AMISOM has more than 22,000 soldiers and police from six African countries deployed in Somalia to protect the government there and to fight the militants.
Although forces have weakened al-Shabab in their decade-long military mission, authorities said the terrorist group is still capable of carrying out attacks against Somali and AMISOM troops, along with assassinations against civilians and government workers in the country's capital, Mogadishu, and beyond.