NAIROBI, Kenya — Residents of Mogadishu are used to perpetual conflict. That's just how life is there, at least for most of the last couple of decades. So waking to the sound of fighting on Friday morning would have been nothing new.
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The scale of what was happening seems, however, unusual.
One government official told the BBC that 1,000 soldiers and 20 tanks had been deployed to the northern and western fringes of the city in a bid to completely clear Islamist insurgents out of the capital.
Such promises — to evict Al Shabaab for good — have been made before and the numbers quoted today seem a little on the high side but no doubt it was a big operation.
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The spokesperson of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) which backs the government said the operation had been a success.
"This is the first time AMISOM has been able to secure an area outside the parameters of the city allowing them to defend greater Mogadishu from the exterior," said Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda adding that two of his troops had been injured in the fighting.
Securing the capital is a key priority for the government, its troops and AMISOM, but this kind of operation is unlikely to bring a sustained peace.
When Al Shabaab withdrew from Mogadishu in August it promised asymmetric warfare and has been true to its word launching suicide bombings, opportunistic attacks and planting countless bombs (many of which are defused by government and AMISOM soldiers).
The old frontlines have dissolved and pushing Al Shabaab out of Mogadishu is more a PR victory than a strategic one as it will scarcely affect Al Shabaab's ability to carry out its guerrilla war.
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