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Kenya has asked the United States to help fund a military operation to seize a key Somali port from al-Shabab militants.
Prime Minister Raila Odinga told reporters in Nairobi on Tuesday that Kenya’s military hopes to capture the town of Kismayo by August.
“Our aim is to get to Kismayo by August because Kismayo is the real major source of supply for al-Shabab and, without controlling Kismayo, it is very difficult to completely neutralize al-Shabab,” said the prime minister.
Kenya has also sought help from European Union naval forces guarding against piracy off the coast of Somalia.
Currently, Kenyan, Ethiopian, Somali government and African Union forces are battling al-Shabab within Somalia’s borders.
On Tuesday, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed called on al-Shabab fighters to break away and join the government.
“I call upon them to come back to peace, statehood and being Somalis. They should refrain from the misguided ideology and stop their habits to shed the blood and destroy the dignity of the Somalis people.”
Mr. Ahmed said al-Shabab is growing weaker.
“I believe that Al-Shabab has already been weakened ideologically and strategically, and now militarily.”
The al-Qaida-allied group once controlled much of southern and central Somalia. But it has lost much ground since last year, when international forces launched a major offensive against the group.
Regional and world powers, including Britain and the United States, consider al-Shabab an international threat.
The Islamist militants are fighting to overthrow Somalia’s fragile transitional government and impose a strict form of Islamic law.