Nigeria and Burundi to deploy troops in Somalia
The move comes amid a rise in kidnappings of foreign aid workers and an escalating humanitarian crisis.
Responding to increased violence by Islamist insurgents in Somalia – Al Qaeda's base in Africa – the United States is preparing to help Nigeria and Burundi deploy peacekeeping troops to the Somalian capital, according to the top US diplomat in Africa.Skip to next paragraph
Israeli general hints at another Gaza campaign
Unclaimed attack on Islamic school raises tension in Nigeria
See no evil? Activists doubt credibility of Arab League mission to Syria.
Arab League observers head to Syria's war-ravaged Homs
Christmas church bombings put global spotlight on 'Nigerian Taliban' (VIDEO)
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The announcement comes as international aid agencies report increased kidnappings of foreign aid workers, and warn that violence in Somalia has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the region.
Since their ouster early last year by joint Ethiopian and Somali forces, the Islamists have waged a guerilla war, which according to international rights groups and aid agencies has left at least 6,000 civilians dead and displaced hundreds of thousands.
An uninterrupted civil war has plagued Somalia since the 1991 overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre, defying numerous peace initiatives and truce deals.
After the Ethiopian army pulled back, 8,000 African Union peacekeepers were supposed to be deployed. But so far, only 2,600 have been sent, far less than needed, and violence has escalated sharply this year. Reuters reports that the US says it is pushing to assist troops on the ground.
A smaller contingent of 1,600 Ugandans and 600 Burundians already there has been unable to stem the chaos in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.
Last week, Nigeria said it had about 800 soldiers ready to go to Somalia as soon as the Nigerian government gave its final approval.
Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said Washington stood ready to support that deployment....
"We are procuring armoured personnel carriers for them now - with the Nigerians we are getting their equipment list from them. But of course, the United States can't bear the burden of this financially alone, so we're also reaching out to other countries."
The announcement comes weeks after Somalia's government, which has support from the US government and is backed by the Ethiopian Army, brokered a fragile peace accord with the Islamists, who are fighting for the creation of an Islamic state, some in collaboration with Al Qaeda. But many hard-liners refuse to cooperate, and the deal has fallen apart, Agence-France Presse reports.
Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, an influential radical cleric, has rejected the deal, which was supported by western powers, including the European Union, United States, Norway and the United Nations.
The cleric, accused of links to Al-Qaeda by the United States, argued it failed to set a clear deadline for the withdrawal from Somalia of Ethiopian troops.
Aweys and his allies stayed away from the talks, saying they would not take part unless Ethiopian troops backing government forces since late 2006 pulled out of Somalia.
According to the accord, Ethiopians would withdraw after the UN deployed peacekeepers within 120 days of the armistice taking effect.