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African Union: Withdrawal Of Militants Has Improved Somalia Relief Work

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Tuesday, August 09, 2011

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The recent withdrawal of al Qaeda-inspired al-Shabaab militants from Somalia's capital Mogadishu is easing relief operations in the drought-stricken country, the Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission said Tuesday.

Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra said in a statement that delivery of humanitarian aid to tens of thousands of starving people in the nation in the Horn of Africa has improved following the militants' exit from the port city.

East Africa and the Horn of Africa's nations are facing their worst drought in 60 years, which is threatening the livelihood of millions of people.

"The extremists were preventing the provision of food to hungry Somalis and this (development) has opened up the opportunity to help many more people," Diarra said.

The al-Shabaab abandoned their bases in Mogadishu on Saturday following weeks of heavy fighting in the city, during which some 9,000 Africa Union-backed transitional government forces steadily wrestled key positions from the insurgents.

In his statement, Diarra urged AU member states and the international community to work together to support the Somali government of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and its peacekeeping troops in the battle to keep militant influences out of Mogadishu.

Somalia has been without an effective central government for about two decades following the toppling of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991, and the lawless country is a haven for terrorists, pirates and illegal arms-dealers.

The al-Shabaab has had control of several towns across the country since 2008. In July, the militant group claimed responsibility for two terror attacks in Kampala, Uganda in which more than 70 people were killed.