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Somalia Readies for 'State of War'     10/21 11:24

   MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) --- Somalia's president on Saturday urged troops to 
prepare for a "state of war" against the al-Shabab extremist group blamed for 
the country's deadliest attack, as the toll reached 358 with dozens still said 
to be missing a week after the truck bombing in Mogadishu.

   The United States is expected to play a supporting role in the new 
offensive, a Somali military official told The Associated Press. The official 
spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to 

   While President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed's emergency speech to lawmakers 
was postponed, he spoke to army units at a training camp on the outskirts of 
the capital.

   Army spokesman Capt. Abdullahi Iman said the offensive involving thousands 
of troops will try to push al-Shabab fighters out of their strongholds in the 
Lower Shabelle and Middle Shabelle regions where many deadly attacks on 
Mogadishu and on Somali and African Union bases have been launched.

   The extremist group has not commented on the Oct. 14 truck bombing, which 
Somali intelligence officials have said was meant to target the capital's 
heavily fortified international airport where many countries have their 
embassies. The massive bomb, which security officials said weighed between 600 
kilograms and 800 kilograms (1,300 pounds and 1,700 pounds), instead detonated 
in a crowded street after soldiers opened fire and flattened one of the truck's 

   Somalia's information minister Abdirahman Osman has said 56 people are still 
missing. Another 228 people were wounded, and 122 have been airlifted for 
treatment in Turkey, Sudan and Kenya.

   "This pain will last for years," said a sheikh leading Friday prayers at the 
bombing site, as long lines of mourners stood in front of flattened or tangled 

   Since the election of the country's Somali-American president in February, 
the government has announced a number of military offensives against al-Shabab, 
Africa's deadliest Islamic extremist group, only to end them weeks later with 
no explanation. Experts believe that has given the extremists breathing space 
and emboldened them in their guerrilla attacks.

   Iman, Somalia's army spokesman, told the AP that troops recaptured three 
towns in Lower Shabelle region from al-Shabab on Friday in preparation for the 
new offensive.

   Somali officials did not give details on what role the U.S. military might 

   The U.S. has stepped up military involvement in the long-fractured Horn of 
Africa nation since President Donald Trump approved expanded operations against 
the group early this year. The U.S. has carried out at least 19 drone strikes 
in Somalia since January, according to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

   The latest U.S. drone strike occurred Monday about 35 miles (56 kilometers) 
southwest of the capital, the U.S. Africa Command told the AP. It said it was 
still assessing the results.

   Earlier this week, in response to questions about the massive truck bombing, 
a Pentagon spokesman said the United States has about 400 troops in Somalia and 
"we're not going to speculate" about sending more.

   In April, the U.S. announced it was sending dozens of regular troops to 
Somalia in the largest such deployment to the country in roughly two decades. 
The U.S. said it was for logistics training of Somalia's army and that about 40 
troops were taking part.

   Weeks later, a service member was killed during an operation against 
al-Shabab. He was the first American to die in combat in Somalia since 1993.


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