Somali PM vows to defeat rebels in 90 days

Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:33pm GMT

By Mohamed Ahmed and Ibrahim Mohamed

MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia's prime minister pledged to crush a four-year Islamist insurgency within three months on Tuesday as his troops backed by African peacekeepers seized new rebel positions in the capital Mogadishu.

Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed told government-run Radio Mogadishu that government forces were well prepared to tackle the militants but it was unclear if his comments marked the start of a second phase of a nationwide offensive.

Regional powers and donors have in the past few weeks slammed the slow pace of political reform and security gains across the country, as the interim government and parliament near the end of their mandate.

Political analysts say this month's military surge against al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab militants might be politically motivated as leaders seek to restore reputations.

"Our forces have made tangible advances in their recent fighting against al Shabaab and hopefully we will eliminate them and end the conflict within 90 days," Mohamed said.

Somalia's military commander General Abdikarim Farah said fighting raged on in Mogadishu's northern districts while government troops were also advancing on rebel positions in southern Somalia.

Neighbouring Kenya sent troops just across its border with the lawless Horn of Africa nation to support Somali troops engaging insurgents in the strategically important town of Dobley, several military and security sources told Reuters.

They also said Kenya continued to deploy reinforcements along the desert frontier where residents reported heavy exchanges of artillery fire between rebels, Somali forces and their allied militia.   Continued...

<p>Somalia's Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed during consultations on the situation in Somalia at the Security Council Chambers at the United Nations headquarters in New York, March 10, 2011. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton</p>
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