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AU commanders in Somalia reach deal on 'united front' against Al-Shabaab

By Xinhua , Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia - African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) military commanders have agreed on the implementation of the transition plan that will guide their operations in the Horn of Africa nation.

The AU mission said on Saturday in a statement that the commanders agreed on key operations and activities to be executed under AMISOM's new concept of operations (CONOPS) including targeted operations against al-Shabab to flush them out of their hideouts that will be implemented in phases.

"The activities will consist of comprehensive operations in support of the Somalia Transition Plan and will include stability operations targeting al-Shabab hideouts and enhancing protection of population centers," Simon Mulongo, deputy special representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, said at the end of the five-day meeting of the military commanders in Mogadishu.

The AU mission said the Somalia Transition Plan will be implemented in three phases.

It said activities to be undertaken under the plan, includes the phased and conditions-based troops' withdrawal and handing over of priority locations in Mogadishu to the Somali security forces in the short term; degrading of al-Shabab and securing main supply routes in the medium term; and support to the Somali security forces as they take full charge of the country's security responsibilities in the long term.

Mulongo called on military commanders to work closely with their Somali counterparts to ensure its successful implementation.

"This CONOPS is going to be achievable because I see a lot of clarity in our thoughts and the way we have tried to explain it in the plan," he said.

The new CONOPS, which is the framework for AMISOM's exit strategy, will guide the AU mission's military activities and operations for the 2018-2021 period.

The commanders who are leading contingents from troop-contributing countries to AMISOM also agreed to reconfigure some of the forward operating bases to ensure the protection of population centers.

The AU mission said it's committed to safeguarding the gains made in securing the country, despite the planned cutbacks in troops.

Tigabu Yilma Wondimhunegn, AMISOM force commander, called for greater involvement of Somalis in finding a lasting solution to the problems facing the country.

"We should also work on getting the Somalis involved in these operations to enable us to succeed in our plans," Wondimhunegn said.

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