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Terrorism & Security

Somali militants hinder humanitarian aid

Islamist forces in Somalia have launched fresh attacks, worrying international aid groups.

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By 1993, the United Nations mounted a humanitarian operation in Somalia to stave off famine induced by civil war. An ill-fated US incursion into Mogadishu in October left 19 US soldiers dead the same year, according to "Black Hawk Down," a book and newspaper series by Philadelphia Inquirer journalist Mark Bowden and later a film of the same name.

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Freelance warlords and Somalia's Islamists were routed out in late 2006 by an onslaught from neighboring Ethiopia with Somalian government forces, reported The Christian Science Monitor.

The campaign against Somalia's Islamists is a new phase in the wider struggle against armed militants. The campaign, however, may have added to tensions as many Somalians see the Ethiopia-allied forces as occupiers rather than liberators. The two countries, which have fought two wars in the last 45 years, have a longstanding rivalry. Ethiopia also has a large Christian population, whereas Somalia is mostly Muslim.

The UN Security Council is considering several options for stabilizing Somalia, the Voice of America reports. The options include sending another UN peacekeeping force to the country to take over from the current African Union force. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon has laid out the options for the Security Council to mull in a new report on Somalia.

Senior UN peacekeeping officials, however, said they were concerned about sending peacekeepers into Somalia while the security situation is so unstable and the Transitional Federal Government is unable to maintain law and order. Edmond Mulet, the assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said:

The report outlined four scenarios for future troop deployments in Somalia. Two included international troops, but only if certain conditions were met. One scenario included a stabilization force of about 8,000 troops and police with a phased withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from Mogadishu. Another could see a political reconciliation involving powersharing among political parties and a peace agreement, including the deployment of more than 28,000 UN peacekeeping troops.

Currently, Mr. Ban is only recommending relocation of some UN staff from nearby Kenya to Mogadishu. Another proposal included setting up a Maritime Task Force, which would support efforts from France and Denmark to protect humanitarian aid ships from marauding sea pirates.

US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad, however, was quoted as saying that "we are not close to deploying the peacekeeping forces."

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