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African Union Plans to Open Office in War-Torn Somalia Capital

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud said the African Union plans to open an office in the capital, Mogadishu, where security has improved since Islamist rebels were driven out by African troops last year.

The African Union’s ambassador to Somalia, Annadif Mohamat Salah, said his office will relocate from its base in Nairobi, the capital of neighboring Kenya, according to an e-mailed statement today from Mohamoud’s office.

It’s “an important step for the development and improvement of Somalia,” Mohamoud said. “I also urge other international organizations to open their offices in Somalia.”

The Africa Union follows the United Nations Political Office for Somalia, which moved top-ranking officials to Mogadishu in January, including special envoy Augustine Mahiga. Turk Hava Yollari AO, the carrier known as Turkish Airlines, began twice-weekly flights to Mogadishu in March.

African Union troops and Somali forces drove fighters from the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Shabaab group from Mogadishu in August 2011, though the militia still carries out sporadic suicide bombings and grenade attacks in the city. Troops have also advanced into south and central Somalia, capturing key towns including Afgoye and the ports of Merka and Kismayo, even as al-Shabaab maintains control over swathes of territory.

Somalia has had no effective central government since rebels overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. That triggered 21 years of civil war where warlords, regional administrations, Islamists and pirates fought for dominance, while a series of transitional governments failed to quell the disorder.

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