The US military has dispatched dozens of troops to Somalia on a mission allegedly aimed at training the African country’s forces to confront terrorist groups.
A US military official said on Thursday that about 40 soldiers from the US Army’s 101st Airborne Division had been deployed to Somalia as part of an effort to enhance the capabilities of local forces in their fight against terrorism.
“United States Africa Command will conduct various security cooperation and/or security force assistance events in Somalia in order to assist our allies and partners,” said Pat Barnes, the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) spokesman.
Barnes added that the troops had arrived in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on April 2 from the Fort Campbell army base in the US state of Kentucky, and were carrying out a train-and-equip mission expected to continue until the end of September.
The official claimed that the deployment had been at the request of Somalia’s government.
This comes as Somalia has ramped up its operations against terrorist groups and particularly the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militants.
The United States already has a small contingent of special operations forces in Somalia, between 3 and 50 troops, allegedly aiding the war-torn country in fighting Takfiri terrorist groups; however, there have been reports of civilian casualties as a result of American military interference in the African nation.
Somalia has been the scene of deadly clashes between government forces and al-Shabab militants since 2006.
Last week, new Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared war on al-Shabab, calling on militants to retreat from the group within 60 days in exchange for jobs and education.
The al-Shabab militant group has stepped up its deadly bombings in the capital since the new president took office in February.
The Takfiri militant group was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets seemingly at will in Mogadishu and regional towns.
The extremist group is just one of the challenges facing the new Somali government, which is still struggling to expand its authority beyond the capital and other selected areas.