Somalia's president, clinging to power by his fingertips in his Mogadishu palace, on Monday declared a state of emergency in a bid to contain a deadly six-week-old insurgent offensive.
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's announcement came amid growing talk of fresh foreign military action to flush out hard line Islamist groups, less than six months after Ethiopia ended a two-year intervention which failed to do just that.
The measure should have little impact on the ground in a country plagued by chaos since 1991 and over which Sharif's forces have no control but could facilitate his administration's request for foreign military assistance.
"As of today, the country is under a state of emergency," Sharif said at press conference in the capital, during a brief lull in fighting that has killed at least 300 people nationwide since May 7.
The president said the government had decided to announce the emergency "after witnessing the intensifying violence across the country."
According to a presidential aide, the decree still has to be approved by parliament to be officially effective. It was not immediately clear where and when the national assembly would convene.
As of today, the country is under a state of emergency
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed
Call for foreign backing
Somali parliament speaker Sheikh Aden Mohamed Madobe on Saturday called upon neighboring countries such as Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia to send military help to ward off a raging rebellion.
The African Union already has 4,300 peacekeepers in Somalia, but they are under constant attack by the Islamists that want to dislodge the government and impose a strict form of Shariah, Islamic law.
AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping said the Somali government "has the right to seek support from AU members states and the larger international community."
It has become inevitable that the international community should intervene immediately to support the transitional government
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, OIC secretary general
On Sunday, the secretary general of the Organization of the Islamic Conference called for urgent international action to suppress the assault that has also displaced 130,000 civilians.
"It has become inevitable that the international community should intervene immediately to support the transitional government, re-establish order and lighten the suffering of innocent civilians," Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu said.
Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga said after a meeting in Nairobi Monday with his Somali counterpart Omar Abdirashid Sharmarke that he supported a foreign military solution but stopped short of committing his own troops.
"There is also need to provide military assistance to deal with the situation in Somalia," he said.
"We tell our enemy that we do not fear any invasion from outside. We forced Ethiopia to withdraw from Somalia early this year and we shall do the same again," al-Shabaab's Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage told a press conference.
"We, the Somali young mujahedeen, shall fight against any troops deployed here to help the government until our last holy fighter passes away. This is a clear signal that the so called government established by the enemy had totally failed."
We tell our enemy that we do not fear any invasion from outside. We forced Ethiopia to withdraw from Somalia early this year and we shall do the same again
Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage
"God will help us to overcome all enemies and we believe we shall defeat them. We are not worried about their quantity and whatever weapons they have," Rage added
His group has intensified attacks against the government since May and killed two legislators this week, including the security minister.
Some 300 people have been killed since May 7, in fighting residents say is the worst for years.
The Horn of Africa country has experienced violence for close to two decades.