Somali government troops and their African Union allies are preparing a large-scale offensive against Al-Shabab militants, according to multiple witnesses and government officials. Somali leaders including the president have threatened to retaliate for the truck bombing of a busy Mogadishu intersection on Oct. 14 that killed more than 300 people. Al-Shabab did not claim responsibility for the blast, but officials blamed the group and few Somalis doubt the accusation.
A resident of Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region told VOA on Thursday that thousands of troops are massing in the area. “We have seen unusual government military buildup. We have witnessed trucks carrying military supplies, technical vehicles mounted with heavy machine-guns and APCs in Afgoye,” Mohamed Muse said.
A government official said another buildup is taking place around Bale Dogle airport, 90 kilometers (56 miles) northwest of Mogadishu. “I cannot tell you more than that. But I can confirm that there will be a massive attack on Al-Shabaab controlled areas and strongholds involving AMISOM and other international partners,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Al-Shabaab has issued no statements since the explosion in Mogadishu. Officials told VOA that according to their intelligence, the militants are forcing the owners of bulldozers to help them cut key roads and have planted landmines to hinder the progress of pro-government forces.