More Troops Needed in Somalia to Deter Al-Shabaab, UN Says

The United Nations Security Council should authorize sending additional troops to Somalia to deter the Islamist Al-Shabaab militia from carrying out terror attacks beyond Somali borders, a top UN official said.

Establishing security in Somalia is key to thwarting al-Shabaab’s expansion, and the international community must help boost the Somali government’s ability to defend itself against the al-Qaeda-linked insurgency, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson told the Security Council today after returning from a trip to Mogadishu.

While the African Union’s peacekeeping mission and the Somali army “remain largely static,” Eliasson said Al-Shabaab “is mobile and is training and recruiting substantial numbers of frustrated, unemployed young men.”

“The insurgency is still able to conduct terror operations –- not only in its areas of control, but in Mogadishu and Kismayo and elsewhere -– as we saw in last month’s horrific attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi,” Eliasson said.

Two decades of conflict created more than 1 million refugees and produced the Al-Shabaab insurgency, which attacked a UN compound in Mogadishu in June before the strike on a shopping mall in Kenya’s capital that killed at least 67 civilians and security personnel.

The 15-member Security Council, the UN’s top governing body, discussed last month’s Westgate incident for the first time today, along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s recommendation earlier this month urging member nations to provide additional troops and assets such as helicopters for the African Union mission in Somalia.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud yesterday repeated Ban’s call for an increase in the peacekeeping mission’s security personnel.

Al-Shabaab’s continued terrorism underlines its “intent to force an international retreat from Somalia and to inflict suffering on Somalis in order to erode their confidence in the peace process and indeed in the future,” Eliasson said.

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