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Peacekeepers to enter Somalia as violence flares

 

By Mohamed Olad Hassan and Tom Maliti - The Associated Press

MOGADISHU, Somalia Three battalions of peacekeepers from Uganda and Nigeria will be airlifted as soon as possible into Somalia as rising violence threatens the government's grip on power, an African Union official said Wednesday.

Somalia's Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi began imposing martial law in areas his government controls, beginning with a curfew Tuesday night in the southern town of Baidoa.

Gedi warned that remnants of an ousted Islamic movement have returned to towns and cities and were planning to try to further destabilize the lawless country.

"From now on martial law would be implemented across government-controlled areas, starting with Baidoa," Gedi said late Tuesday.

Since last month when Somali government troops with crucial support from Ethiopian soldiers, tanks and war planes ousted the Council of Islamic Courts, factional violence has again become a feature of life in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Ethiopia says it does not have the resources to stay as a peacekeeping force and already has begun withdrawing, presenting the possibility of a dangerous power vacuum.

The African Union was pressing ahead with its peacekeeping mission to Somalia despite securing only half the 8,000 troops needed at a key summit of African leaders that ended Tuesday. So far five nations -- Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, Burundi and Ghana -- have pledged around 4,000 troops.

The main challenge, the African Union official said, was raising the estimated $34 million a month to pay for the mission. The EU has pledged $20 million for a peacekeeping force and $40 million in overall support has been offered by the United States. The U.S. also has pledged to offer airlift support.

An important consideration for the African Union peacekeeping mission is ensuring the majority of troops are Muslim, given that most Somalis are Muslim. The troops will have a narrow mandate: protecting the transitional government.

On Tuesday, extremists in Somalia said they would try to kill any peacekeepers. In a videotape posted on the official Web site of the Islamic movement, a hooded gunman read a statement saying that any African peacekeepers would be seen as invaders.

Uganda, Nigeria join peace effort for Somalia

By The Associated Press - Mogadishu, Somalia - Three battalions of peacekeepers from Uganda and Nigeria will be airlifted as soon as possible into Somalia amid rising violence that threatens the government's grip on power, an African Union official said Wednesday.

Somalia's Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi began imposing martial law in areas his government controls, beginning with a curfew Tuesday night in the southern town of Baidoa.

Gedi warned remnants of an ousted Islamic movement have returned to towns and cities and were planning to try to further destabilize the lawless country.

Since last month, when Somali government troops with crucial support from Ethiopian soldiers, tanks and war planes ousted the Council of Islamic Courts, factional violence has again become a feature of life in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.

Ethiopia says it does not have the resources to stay as a peacekeeping force and already has begun withdrawing, presenting the possibility of a dangerous power vacuum.

In neighboring Ethiopia, a senior African Union official said Wednesday that three battalions of peacekeepers from Uganda and Nigeria were ready to be deployed in Somalia and will be airlifted in as soon as possible.

The African Union was pressing ahead with its peacekeeping mission to Somalia despite securing only half the 8,000 troops needed at a key summit of African leaders that ended Tuesday.

An important consideration for the African Union peacekeeping mission is ensuring the majority of troops are Muslim, given that most Somalis are Muslim. The troops will have a narrow mandate: protecting the transitional government.

On Tuesday, extremists in Somalia said they would try to kill any peacekeepers. In a videotape posted on the official website of the Islamic movement, a hooded gunman read a statement saying that any African peacekeepers would be seen as invaders.

The United States has accused Somalia's Council of Islamic Courts of sheltering suspects in the 1998 al-Qaeda bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.


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