Africa backs Somalia troops plea

somali militia
somali militia

The African Union has supported the Somali government’s request for its neighbours to send troops to help it fight Islamist insurgents.

Ethiopia has said it would need an international mandate before its soldiers would return to Somalia.

A BBC correspondent in Ethiopia says it remains to be seen whether the AU’s statement will be enough.

Somalia’s speaker of parliament at the weekend admitted the government had been “weakened” by Islamist insurgents.

Last week alone, the security minister, Mogadishu’s police chief and an MP were killed.

An alliance of militant Islamist hardliners controls much of southern Somalia.

Somali bomber

Speaker of parliament Sheikh Aden Mohamed Nur on Saturday said there was a “state of emergency” and asked for support within 24 hours.

He said that the radical Islamist group al-Shabab, which is accused of links to al-Qaeda, was using foreign fighters.

But al-Shabab says the suicide bomber who killed Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden and at least 34 others in Beledweyne on Thursday was a Somali man and named him as Mohamed Deerow Sheikh Adam.

On Monday, AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping said in a statement that the Somali government “has the right to seek support from AU members states and the larger international community.”

The African Union has some 4,300 peacekeepers in Mogadishu, but their mandate prevents them from attacking the Islamist hardliners except for in self-defence.

The BBC’s Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says Ethiopia troops did fight the insurgents and so all eyes are on Ethiopia to see if it will respond.

On Sunday, Ethiopian Information Minister Bereket Simon said: “Any further action from Ethiopia regarding Somalia will be done according to international community decision.”

Ethiopia’s troops left Somalia in January under a UN peace deal after spending two years battling insurgents in the country.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991. Its UN-backed transitional government controls only parts of Mogadishu, but little of the rest of the country.

Some four million people in Somalia – or about one-third of the population – need food aid, according to aid agencies.