PM Odinga seeks US help in Kismayu battle
Posted Tuesday, June 12 2012 at 22:30
Prime Minister Raila Odinga has asked the EU and United States to help the African Union forces in Somalia to wrest the port of Kismayu from Al-Shabaab.
Mr Odinga said liberating Al-Shabaab’s last bastion would entail an “operation by land, sea and air”.
“Our aim is to get to Kismayu by August. We have asked the EU to help us with the Atalanta forces that they have there; they are reluctant,” Mr Odinga told a meeting with international media on Tuesday.
Between five and 10 warships, depending on the period, are deployed off the Horn of Africa as part of the European Union’s Atalanta Operation that was launched in 2008 to protect merchant vessels from Somali pirates.
Atalanta’s mandate was expanded in March to include air-borne operations against pirate bases on the Somali coast.
However, no mention was made of possible operations against the Al-Shabaab militants, who are fighting the weak transitional government and who still control a large chunk of south and central Somalia. “We have asked the Americans for assistance,” the Prime Minister said.
He said the assault on Kismayu “is going to be a joint effort... We are working with other international groups which are in Somalia,” he said, citing Ugandan troops within AU Mission in Somalia (Amisom) as well as Ethiopian forces.
Kenya rolled tanks and troops across the border into Somalia last October 16. The Ethiopians went in a month later. The Kenyan contingent, which according to Nairobi numbers 4,631 soldiers, was officially integrated into Amisom in early June.
Burundian and Ugandan troops in Amisom pressured Al-Shabaab into abandoning fixed positions in Mogadishu in August.
The militants have lost other major towns such as Beledweyne and Baidoa but have so far held onto the port of Kismayu, from which they draw most of their revenue.