02/08/09

News 24

Washington –  The Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, will pledge more US assistance, including military aid, to Somalia’s shaky government as it fights for survival against Islamist extremists during her seven-nation tour of Africa.

US officials say the Obama administration plans to go ahead with additional weapons supplies to double an initial provision of 40 tons of arms.

The US also has begun a low-profile mission to help train Somali security forces in neighbouring Djibouti, said the officials.

Clinton will have talks with Somalia’s beleaguered interim president, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, in Kenya on Thursday. This will be the first stop on her trip. She intends to reaffirm American backing of Ahmed’s transitional government.

Terrorists

Clinton’s meeting with Sheik Ahmed comes at critical juncture for Somalia, which has not had a functioning government since 1991 and is home to a growing radical Islamist movement known as al-Shabab. The group, which US officials say has links to al-Qaeda, was designated a terrorist organisation by Washington last year.

One senior official said the Pentagon, which has a base at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, is providing facilities such as tents for the training and is assisting with logistics.

In addition to voicing support for the Somali government, officials said Clinton would also talk about Eritrea, a small Red Sea state that the United States and United Nations accuse of supporting the Islamists with money and weapons. Eritrea denies the charges but questions the legitimacy of Sheik Ahmed’s government.