Thursday, March 20, 2008
MOGADISHU (AFP) — Ten Nigerian army officers arrived here Thursday to assess conditions ahead of a troop deployment to bolster an undermanned African Union peacekeeping force, an official said.
The officers held talks with officials from the embattled Somali government and African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) in the capital Mogadishu, where security forces are battling Islamist rebels.
"This is an advance team of Nigerian peacekeepers. They are assessing the situation and deployment of their troops will follow later," said an AMISOM official. He did not give a timeline.
The AU has raised less than half the 8,000 peacekeepers it needs to deploy in Somalia to help restore stability in the country torn apart by internecine war for the past 17 years.
Burundi -- which has 850 troops in Mogadishu -- is expected to deploy a total of 1,700 soldiers in Somalia, alongside around 1,600 troops from Uganda who have been in the capital since March last year.
In early 2007, the Nigerian army announced plans to send troops to Somalia, but the deployment was delayed by worsening security in the country.
Over the past year, Mogadishu has been rocked by almost daily violence pitting Ethiopian-backed Somali forces against Islamist insurgents.
The guerrilla fighting has killed hundreds of civilians and forced tens of thousands to flee.
Source: AFP, March 20, 2008