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U.N. Security Council Approves AU Force in Somalia

The AU mission calls for 8,000 troops but only 4,000 have been pledged so far. Uganda, Nigeria, Burundi, Malawi and Ghana have offered to send soldiers, and some could be deployed to Somalia as early as Friday.

Uganda has said its 1,500 troops will be deployed solely to Somalia’s violent capital, Mogadishu.

The 15-member Security Council authorized the AU operation to take military action for the next six months. A long-standing arms embargo on Somalia was partially lifted by the council for the importation of weapons for the force.

A U.N. peacekeeping mission could be set up after the six months, pending an assessment by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

“For the first time in 15 years the Somali people have a prospect of being governed by representative institutions that will provide them with security and stability,” said Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the main sponsor of the resolution. “The international community for its part must lend its support.”

Mogadishu has seen escalating daily violence in the last few weeks.

Hundreds of Somalis were fleeing the capital yesterday because of the mortar attacks, the worst violence since Somalia’s transitional government gained control of the country in late 2006.

In December, government troops heavily backed by Ethiopian forces defeated an Islamic movement that had power over much of the country, driving Islamic militants from their stronghold in Mogadishu.

Ethiopian troops provided some security support for the government since the battle but are in the process of withdrawing.

The Islamic militants remaining in the country vowed to form a guerilla-style insurgency, and frequent attacks in Mogadishu targeted civilians and government building over the last two months.

Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi told reporters last week that the Islamists “will be brought to justice.”

“We are not sparing any effort to pursue the remnants of the Islamic courts,” Gedi said. “They and their terrorist alliance are behind the sporadic attacks in Mogadishu.”

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but shortly after the United Nations voiced its support for the peacekeeping force, one insurgent leader promised resistance.

“The U.N. should keep its hand off our country because the Islamic forces are ready to fight any foreign troops whether they are blue helmet or black helmet,” said an insurgent identified only as Osman, according to the Associated Press.

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