Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – Al-Shabab, the Somalia-based extremist group affiliated with al-Qaida, has denied the government’s claim that the group has requested to open negotiations.
“I have not seen the statement you are referring to, but I can assure you that there are no negotiations ongoing or planned between us as mujahedeen and the government,” said a member of Al-Shabab, according to the group’s media outlet.
The member, reportedly from the group’s propaganda office but whose name was not disclosed, also ruled out the possibility of talks between Al-Shabab and Villa Somalia, the official residence of the President of Somalia.
“The statements from government officials are meant to raise morale,” the member added.
This is the first time Somalia’s government has claimed that Al-Shabab has requested negotiations.
“Al-Shabab has requested to open negotiations with the Somali government. However, there are two groups within al-Shabab,” said Deputy Defense Minister Abdifatah Kasim.
“Locals and foreigners. The foreigners who have invaded our country do not have the right to engage in negotiations. Their only option is to return to their own countries. On the other hand, local Somalis may have the opportunity to open up negotiations.”
In September, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said that the country “is not currently in a position to negotiate with al-Shabab but is open to members of the group renouncing violence and extremist ideology. “
On Friday, he appealed to young members of the extremist al-Shabab to surrender to the government and renounce their terrorist ideology. The plea came following two recent attacks on government forces by al-Shabab that killed more than 43 people, including senior officers.
“I want to tell these boys to return from the wrong path they are taking,” Mohamud said at a mosque in the capital, Mogadishu. “I urge them to return to their government, people, and religion. Every step they take from now on will only increase their guilt.”
The president has declared an “all-out war” against al-Shabab, and government forces, supported by local forces, are currently engaged in a “total war” against the group.
Despite the ongoing military offensives, the group has managed to carry out several attacks in the country.
Despite the ongoing violence, the Somali government has expressed a willingness to negotiate with Al-Shabab members willing to surrender and reintegrate with society. It remains to be seen whether any group members will accept this offer.
For over 15 years, Al-Shabab has engaged in a conflict with the Somali government, targeting government officials and African Union peacekeepers through violent attacks. The organization is infamous for its extreme methods and strict adherence to Islamic doctrine.