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Somali soldiers train for urban combat in rural Uganda

Monday, June 04, 2012

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Mogadishu. Somali soldiers patrol a quiet village as locals sit on the terrace of a cafe, chatting and reading newspapers, when suddenly rebels armed with assault rifles appear and ambush them.

The soldiers evacuate their wounded and take up positions while they wait for reinforcements.

The scene is far from the sandy streets of Somalia's war-torn seaside capital Mogadishu. The Somalis are at the Bihanga military camp, which lies in a region of lush green rolling hills in south-west Uganda.

The fighters are neither battle-hardened soldiers nor Islamist insurgents, but rather new recruits wrapping up their training in a mock urban environment.

About 600 Somalis, including 15 women, from the security forces have spent the past six months being coached by instructors from Uganda and the European Union. Since April 2010 the mission has trained some 1,700 recruits.

The idea of the training came after the overthrow of Somalia's Islamic Courts Union in 2006 by the US-backed invasion of Ethiopian troops. It was followed by the establishment of a weak Western-backed transitional government, protected by an African Union force, AMISOM.


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