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2.5 million face starvation in Somalia, PM tells UN

by Staff Writers
United Nations (AFP) Jan 14, 2011
Somalia's prime minister told the UN Security Council on Friday that the new government is winning its war with Islamist militants but that 2.5 million people face starvation because of drought.

Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, a Somali-American who took office just 50 days ago in the lawless Horn of Africa state, said that Somali forces and African Union troops "are winning the security battle" against the Islamist Shebab militia, said to be linked to Al-Qaeda.

"Gradual and incremental though it may be, the secure space in Mogadishu grows daily," Mohamed told the Security Council, which has given strong backing to his transitional government.

He said about 60 percent of Mogadishu was now under government control and about 80 percent of the capital's population was now in those areas.

Mohamed said the additional 4,000 troops promised to the Africa Union mission, AMISOM, will have a "dramatic impact."

The UN Security Council voted the troop increase one month ago but it is not known when they will arrive. Uganda and Burundi have offered to provide the new troops that will take the AMISOM strength to more than 12,000, diplomats said.

The Somali government is also acting to strengthen its own army and nearly 1,000 troops are to return soon from special training by European Union experts in Uganda.

"Furthermore we are starting to see a rise in the number of young Shebab fighters surrendering to government and AMISOM forces," Mohamed said.

"Seven handed themselves in to the government just last week. Many are obviously weak, starving and distressed," he said.

Observers say that Shebab still controls large amounts of territory in Somalia, which has been in the grip of civil war for the past two decades.

And the prime minister warned of a new threat from drought.

"Nearly 2.5 million people are on the verge of starvation and unless we will have immediate support, definitely there will be a catastrophic situation," Mohamed told reporters after the meeting.

A drought in 1992 killed an estimated half million people and Mohamed said urgent international action was needed to avoid a repeat.

Mohamed said the transitional government, which has a mandate that runs until August, needed more international help, particularly finance, to beat Shebab and its allies.

"It will be very hard for us to challenge them because they have a very powerful international network and they are well disciplined," he said.

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