(Adds details on UN Somalia mission from third paragraph.)
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- The United Nations Security Council authorized an increase of almost 50 percent in the troop strength of the African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia, boosting efforts to wipe out militia linked to al-Qaeda.
The council today voted 15-0 in favor of a resolution to raise the number of personnel in the mission, known as Amisom, to 17,731 from 12,000, currently made up of Ugandan, Burundian and Djiboutian troops.
Amisom, fighting alongside Somali troops, has pushed the Islamic militant group al-Shabaab from most areas of the capital Mogadishu, and it needs more manpower to wrest control of the rebel-held central and south, Commander Fred Mugisha said in October. The rebels are also facing pressure outside the city from Kenyan and Ethiopian forces operating independently and with government soldiers from the Horn of Africa nation.
Kenya deployed troops into southern Somalia in October in pursuit of al-Shabaab militants it blames for a string of attacks on foreigners including a British man shot dead at a luxury resort on the coast near the border of Somalia.
The UN’s authorization for the expansion of Amisom may bolster Kenya’s plan to place its forces under Amisom command and will increase the cost of the mission by $300 million to about $550 million.
Ethiopian forces entered Somalia in December, seizing the central town of Beledweyne from al-Shabaab, government spokesman Bereket Simon said last month.
The vote was taken a day before a U.K.-organized international conference in London on boosting security in Somalia and tackling maritime piracy affecting the global shipping industry.
The meeting also will explore the next steps in dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Somalia, where famine last year left 750,000 people on the brink of starvation and drove tens of thousands of people from their homes. More than 2.3 million people in Somalia are still in need of emergency assistance, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said on Feb. 3.
Somalia has been wracked by a civil war since the ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre, the former dictator, in 1991. Al-Shabaab, which controls most of southern and central Somalia, has been fighting President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s administration in Mogadishu in a bid to establish an Islamic state.
--Editors: Terry Atlas, Larry Liebert
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