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Archive for Thursday, February 1, 2007

Martial law imposed in Somalia

February 1, 2007

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— Three battalions of peacekeepers from Uganda and Nigeria will be airlifted as soon as possible into Somalia amid rising violence that threatens the government's grip on power, an African Union official said Wednesday.

Somalia's Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi began imposing martial law in areas his government controls, beginning with a curfew Tuesday night in the southern town of Baidoa.

Gedi warned that remnants of an ousted Islamic movement had returned to towns and cities and were planning to try to further destabilize the lawless country.

"From now on martial law would be implemented across government-controlled areas, starting with Baidoa," Gedi said late Tuesday. The measure was taken under a three-month emergency law passed by parliament on Jan. 13.

Since last month when Somali government troops with crucial support from Ethiopian soldiers, tanks and warplanes ousted the Council of Islamic Courts, factional violence has again become a feature of life in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Ethiopia says it does not have the resources to stay as a peacekeeping force and already has begun withdrawing, presenting the possibility of a dangerous power vacuum.

In Ethiopia, a senior African Union official said Wednesday that three battalions of peacekeepers from Uganda and Nigeria were ready to be deployed in Somalia and will be airlifted in as soon as possible.

The African Union was pressing ahead with its peacekeeping mission to Somalia despite securing only half the 8,000 troops needed at a key summit of African leaders that ended Tuesday. So far five nations - Uganda, Nigeria, Malawi, Burundi and Ghana - have pledged around 4,000 troops.

The African Union official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, said securing the 8,000 troops would not be difficult.

The main challenge, he said, was raising the estimated $34 million a month to pay for the mission.

The EU has pledged $20 million for a peacekeeping force and $40 million in overall support has been offered by the U.S. The U.S. also has pledged to offer airlift support.

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