First batch of peacekeepers dispatched to Central Somalia
A unit of peacekeepers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia, Amisom, were deployed to Beledweyne town, 335 km north of Mogadishu, on Friday.
Accompanied by French officials, the peacekeepers, numbering about 300, flew from Djibouti city, the capital of neighbouring Republic of Djibouti have reportedly landed in Central Somalia. They immediately set up base at Kalabayrka, about 20 km north of the town.
The French officials will train the Djiboutian peacekeepers and Somali forces before they start operations in the regional capital, Beledweyne.
The town was seized by Ethiopian troops supporting Somali government forces in December 2011. It is part of the peacekeepers’ plan to take over from the Ethiopians the security stabilisation of areas captured from Al-Shabaab, the radical Islamist group fervently opposing the Transitional Federal Government.
In March, the Commander of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF), Gen Aronda Nyakairima, unveiled four phase plan to liberate the remaining southern and central regions of Somalia that are still held by Al-Shabaab by August 2012.
He said that in the fourth phase, peacekeepers from Amisom’s Djibouti contingent would target Hiran region in central Somalia.
"All those regions will be free from Al-Shabaab by August," said the Ugandan military chief during a visit to Mogadishu, adding that Amisom would not allow Somalia to be occupied by foreigners.