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The U.S. and Italian governments began paying Somali soldiers’ wages, reducing the number of trained government troops who defected to al-Shabab.

AMISOM was gaining ground, and the militants knew it.

In August 2010, just before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, al-Shabab mounted a massive offensive to overrun the government and control all of Mogadishu. Among its ranks were veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war, and at least two dozen Americans, mostly of Somali origin.

The militants battled to within 100 yards of the presidential palace. But they took heavy casualties.

“That was when we broke their back. That marked the beginning of the end of al-Shabab,” said Gen. Mugisha, the ex-AMISOM commander. “We were supposed to be thrown in the sea.

“But this was not possible because we were also prepared. There were several battles, very serious and intense. We took some casualties, but I think we won the battles because we had better equipment and we were determined,” he said.