MOGADISHU, Dec. 8 (Xinhua) -- Somalia and the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) have vowed to intensify military operations to flush out al-Shabab militants following the lifting of a 31-year-old United Nations arms embargo on the country.
African Union Special Representative for Somalia and ATMIS Head Mohamed El-Amine Souef and Somali Minister for Information, Culture and Tourism Daud Aweis said in a joint statement issued in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, Thursday evening that the lifting of the embargo would give fresh impetus to the fight against al-Shabab and other armed groups in the country.
The removal of the arms embargo by the UN Security Council marked a significant moment in the evolution of Somalia's security and acts as a catalyst for the ongoing transition of security responsibilities from ATMIS to the Somalia security forces, Souef said.
Aweis said the lifting of the embargo would enable Somalia to build and modernize its armed forces and enhance its capability to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
"Somalia has been struggling with many challenges, including the presence of al-Shabab extremist group linked to the international terrorist network al-Qaida," he said. "Somalia needs to acquire modern weapons and equipment to effectively fight these threats and secure our borders."
The minister said public support for the military offensives is already bearing fruit, with the capital Mogadishu enjoying improved safety and security largely because of the close collaboration with the communities.
"We are grateful to the Somali people who have always supported the government and the military, and without them, the good progress made in strengthening the stability of the capital could not have been possible," Aweis noted.
Souef reiterated the ATMIS commitment to the transition and drawdown process, ensuring the pan-African body's mission fulfills its mandate while providing support for ongoing operations. "We recognize the importance of balancing the drawdown with the need to maintain other vital operations."
Souef and Aweis, who held a joint press briefing in Mogadishu, reaffirmed their commitment to the ongoing military offensive against al-Shabab and ensuring a smooth transition ahead of the start of the second phase of the ATMIS troop drawdown.
ATMIS said it will withdraw an additional 3,000 troops from Somalia from next week in compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2710 by Dec. 31. ■