- AU force needs 16-20,000 troops
- Three AU troops killed over weekend
KAMPALA, July 15 (Somalilandpress) — African Union peacekeepers in Somalia need a stronger mandate to help bring security to the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, requiring at least triple the troops, the force’s biggest contributor said on Wednesday.
Embattled AU soldiers face near-daily attacks from insurgents in the Somali capital Mogadishu and are largely confined to protecting key areas such as the presidential palace, airport and seaport.
Despite an initial pledge of 8,000 troops to help secure Somalia’s weak government, only 4,300 soldiers — the most from Uganda — have arrived in the sea-side capital.
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“The way forward is to change the mandate from peacekeeping to peace enforcement. It would also require a change in the force levels,” Ugandan army spokesman Felix Kulayigye told Reuters by telephone.
“I think we need between 16,000-20,000 troops.”
President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s government also wants a stronger mandate for AU peacekeepers to help his administration fend off Islamist-led rebel attacks in the latest cycle of violence in 18 years of civil conflict in Somalia.
An AU spokesman said on Wednesday that three troops were killed over the weekend in Mogadishu. “We have lost three soldiers in mortar shelling on Saturday evening,” Major Barigye Ba-hoku told Reuters.
A two-year Islamist-led insurgency has killed at least 18,000 people and sent hundreds of thousands more from their homes. Rebels control large areas of Mogadishu and the south.
Foreign powers and some of Somalia’s neighbours fear if Ahmed’s western-backed government is toppled then Somalia could become a safe haven for foreign militants.
One of Somalia’s militant Islamist groups was holding two French security men hostage on Wednesday after government-linked abductors took them from a Mogadishu hotel earlier this week, police said [ID:nLF167394].
(Additional reporting by Abdi Guled in Mogadishu) (Reporting by Hereward Holland; Editing by Jack Kimball)