Problems including corrupt officials and a lack of supplies have delayed Somalia's military offensive against Islamist insurgents, but even before the first shot has been fired new warnings have emerged that blood may be spilled for little or no gain.

In signs the offensive is approaching, close to 1,000 additional troops arrived from Uganda last week to support the African Union's forces in Mogadishu, and the Islamists have been digging trenches across the capital's streets to impede AU armoured cars. The AU backs the beleaguered Somali government and has more than 5,000 troops stationed in the country.

But Somalia's government, whose forces are weak and poorly trained and equipped, has not described how it would consolidate any gains made in the offensive or win the support of the people, who are splintered into hundreds of clans.

Experts say the government does not appear to have a political plan ready to deploy after the end of the fighting, which is likely to kill scores of civilians.

The Somali government, for its part, says it is committed but needs more international support.

Keywords: conflictviolence

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