Somalia says al-Shabab is seeking talks for the first time

Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – Somalia’s government has claimed that the al-Shabab extremist group has requested to open negotiations for the first time, according to Deputy Defense Minister Abdifatah Kasim. 

The revelation comes as the government continues its military offensive against the group, which it has referred to as a “total war.”

“They are now requesting a peace negotiation,” Kasim said in an interview with state media. “But our stance, as determined by the President and carried out by the executive, is to eliminate terrorism from Somalia completely.”

Kasim added that al-Shabab, which has been significantly weakened, can only carry out ambush attacks at this point and that alert government forces are preventing these.

“The Kharijites have requested talks,” he said. “They can be divided into two groups: those who are native to the country and those who are not. The Somalis can engage in negotiations, but the foreign individuals who have come to attack the country will not be offered the same opportunity. They must leave the country instead.

There was no immediate response from al-Shabab, an extremist group affiliated with al-Qaida that has carried out high-profile bombings in Somalia’s capital and held sway over parts of the central and southern regions of the country for more than a decade.

The group is thought to number several thousand fighters, including an unknown number of foreigners from regional countries like neighboring Kenya and beyond. 

The extremists have long sought to impose strict Islamic law in Somalia and have called for the withdrawal of foreign troops, including those from the United States, Turkey, and a multinational African Union force.

Somalia’s President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has previously stated 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. 

“The government is extending an invitation to members of Al-Shabab who wish to renounce violence and extremist ideology,” Mohamud said. “The government is fighting al-Shabab on three fronts: military, ideological, and financial.”

The President believes negotiations should be the final option for dealing with al-Shabab and has previously stated that “the government’s ultimate goal is to peacefully resolve the conflict through dialogue with extremist groups, particularly al-Shabab, which is prevalent in Somalia.”

Somalia has been amidst a campaign against al-Shabab, which has achieved significant victories and recaptured many towns under their control for years. 

The group has come under pressure as the government seeks to squeeze its sources of financing and has carried out several high-profile attacks in recent months, including an October bombing in Mogadishu that killed at least 120 people and a pair of bombings on Wednesday in a region at the heart of the government offensive that killed at least 35 people.