Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- The African Union Mission in Somalia must double the size of its peacekeeping force in order to hold on to territory secured in Mogadishu and move into al-Shabaab areas outside the capital, a Burundian defense official said.
Burundi, which along with Uganda provides most of the more than 9,000 troops in the so-called Amisom force, is preparing to send a sixth battalion of 1,000 soldiers to Somalia, said Colonel Gaspard Baratuza, spokesman for the Defense Ministry. The French and U.S.-trained forces will be deployed once Burundi receives equipment including armoured vehicles and bullet-proof vests, he said in an interview today in the capital, Bujumbura.
“Every soldier must have his own equipment, which we are waiting for from foreign countries,” Baratuza said.
The African Union peacekeepers are supporting soldiers from Somalia’s United Nations-backed government in their fight against a four-year insurgency by al-Shabaab. The al-Qaeda- linked militia is trying to topple the administration of President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed in order to establish an Islamic state in the Horn of Africa country.
The UN, which approved Amisom’s mandate, has authorized an increase in troop levels to as many as 12,000 personnel. The 54- member African Union has asked for the operation to be expanded to 20,000 troops.
While al-Shabaab withdrew from most of its bases in Mogadishu in August, leaving much of the city under government control, it still dominates the south and central regions of the country.
Amisom plans to target the southern towns of Baidoa and Afgooye, as well as the ports of Kismayo and Marka, in the next phase of its campaign, Baratuza said.
“If we had enough strength in troop numbers we could stabilize the whole country,” he said.
--Editors: Paul Richardson, Karl Maier.
To contact the reporter on this story: Sarah McGregor in Nairobi at firstname.lastname@example.org; Desire Nimubona in Bujumbura via Nairobi at email@example.com.
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