Somalia’s government claimed Saturday that the al-Shabab extremist group has for the first time asked to open negotiations, amid a military offensive the government has described as “total war.” There was no immediate statement by al-Shabab, an al-Qaida-affiliate that for well over a decade has carried out high-profile bombings in Somalia’s capital and controlled parts of the country’s central and southern regions, complicating efforts to rebuild the once-failed state after decades of conflict. “Al-Shabab requested to open negotiations with the Somali government, but there are two groups within al-Shabab,” Deputy Defense Minister Abdifatah Kasim told journalists in Mogadishu. “The first part is foreigners, and the second part is local Somalis. Those locals have a chance to open up negotiations, but those foreigners who invaded our country have no right for talks. The only option is to return to where they are from.” The deputy defense minister added that “for the Somalis, we are ready to receive them, for they are willing to surrender to the Somali government. They must follow the government’s instructions, reintegrate with their society, or face the Somali National Army in the front lines.” This is the first time Somalia’s federal government has said that the extremist group has requested talks.