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Somalia's Transitional Federal Government (TFG) is gaining momentum against the insurgent al-Shabaab militias, particularly after capturing Baidoa in central Somalia in Feburary of this year. The TFG and its Kenyan allies are now preparing to take over the port city of Kismayo, an al-Shabaab stronghold in Lower Juba.
To learn more about their plans, Somalia Report interviewed Abdiweli Farah Elmi, the TFG military spokesman in Lower Juba, regarding ongoing military operations in the region.
What is the status of your military operation in Lower Juba?
For the last four months we have intensified our operation in the region. We ensured that we coordinate our army along with the Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF). We received enough support from the government as well as the Kenyan forces.
What are your plans for Kismayo?
Details regarding this are classified. Generally, we have established measures and parameters for the advance of our forces towards Kismayo which is our main target in this region.
What challenges do you face regarding your operation?
Most roads in the region are impassable during the rainy season therefore this hinders transportation networks. Also, the army may be not be paid on time and this affects their motivation and performance.
How long will it take for the TFG army to reach Kismayo?
That is unpredictable, but I can assure you that in line with our plans, we shall take the least time possible to end the al-Shabaab regime in the region.
Al-Shabaab constantly vows that they will fight tooth and nail to protect Kismayo from the TFG and allied forces. What is your take on that?
These are simple claims that are part of a strategy to discourage their enemy. However, it is not possible and they are just words. Let us wait and see.
There have been a number of airstrikes carried out in some parts of Lower Juba and Gedo by Kenyan forces. How did this affect your operation?
It has helped a great deal and has contributed significantly to our operation. A number of airstrikes targeted al-Shabaab bases and it is believed that senior officials were killed. This in turn affects their fighters' morale and resistance therefore they retreated peacefully.
Is it possible that the Islamists may abandon Kismayo without a fight?
It is possible since similar retreats have occurred before as part of a new trend. We are armed to the teeth and ready to do anything to liberate the citizens from the extremists.
How is your relationship with the KDF in the region?
It is good. We are working as a team to realize our goals. We really appreciate their assistance. I call upon the Somali community to work with us so that our objectives are achieved as a country. God willing, together we shall succeed.