Somalia: African Union mandates troops to use force against Islamist insurgents

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The African union has agreed to change the mandate of its 4,300-strong troops in Somalia to allow them fight against al-Shabaab Islamist rebels trying to take over Somalia. The African Union force in Mogadishu could only protect key sites such as the presidential palace, airport and seaport, and were prevented from attacking the insurgents except in self-defense.

However African leaders have considered the resolution to give African Union peacekeepers in Somalia a mandate to do more than just defend themselves from attacks by Islamist rebels. Al-Shabaab had warned that the situation would only get worse if African leaders beefed up the mandate of the African Union troops.

African Union Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra assured the Somalian government that the rules of engagement will be more flexible for the peacekeeping troops to react to developments on the ground, and more peacekeepers will be sent to Somalia, “We welcome the support of the recent AU heads of states summit in Libya for the government… and we have a firm pledge for the increase of the AU peacekeepers,” Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke is quoted as saying.

On Sunday, six mortars were aimed at the presidential palace by the insurgents, and twelve civilians were killed as government soldiers retaliated. According to Somalia’s police commander, the country’s chaotic security situation is getting worse because of an influx of foreign fighters.

More than 165,000 people have fled Mogadishu in the last two months, as Islamist militant fight government forces, over Somalia. Western nations as well as Somalia’s neighbors worry that if the rebels succeed in toppling the government, Somalia will become an al-Qaeda training zone and the region will be destabilized.

The radical al-Shabab Islamists, accused of links to al-Qaeda, plan to unseat the current government of Somalia under President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist backed by the African Union, United Nations and the U.S.A. Despite President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s introduction of Sharia law to the Muslim country, the rebels are not appeased.

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