Somalia:New president declares country war zone

Somalia’s new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed has declared the country a war zone, instructing the military to prepare a new offensive against al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremists.

The president wore a military uniform as he declared a “new offensive against terrorist groups” on Thursday. He gave militants a 60-day deadline to lay down their arms and surrender.

The president also replaced military and intelligence chiefs, the country’s police chief and Mogadishu’s mayor in an attempt to improve the worsening security situation in the long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation.

Mohamed Ahmed Jimale was named the new chief of defense forces of the Somali National Army while Abdullahi Mohamed Ali was appointed as the national intelligence agency chief. General Abdihakim Said was also appointed as police chief.

The shakeup and the instruction for the high-scale offensive are seen as part of attempts by Mohamed to consolidate power.

The developments also come as the al-Shabab militant group has stepped up its deadly bombings in the capital since the new president took office in February.

In their latest assault, a car bomb blast in Mogadishu on Wednesday claimed lives of at least seven people.

The explosion occurred at lunchtime at a restaurant near the ministries of internal security and youth. No group claimed responsibility for the explosion. However, al-Shabab militants often carry out such attacks.

Al-Shabab has denounced the new president as an “apostate” and warned the Somalis against supporting him.

The Takfiri militant group was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets seemingly at will in Mogadishu and regional towns.

The extremist group is just one of the challenges facing the new Somali government, which is still struggling to expand its authority beyond the capital and other selected areas.

By Africafrique and agencies

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