AU troops make gains in Somalia

Jan. 20, 2012 at 12:50 PM
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MOGADISHU, Somalia, Jan. 20 (UPI) -- A spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia said pro-government forces took control of territory once held by al-Shabaab.

Kenyan and Ethiopian forces are supporting an AU force in Somalia to give the transitional government more authority. Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group allied with al-Qaida, controls much of the south of the country.

Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda, a spokesman for the AU Mission in Somalia, told the BBC that pro-government forces managed to push north of Mogadishu.

"This is the first time AMISOM has been able to secure an area outside the parameters of the city allowing them to defend greater Mogadishu," he said.

The transitional government in Somalia has struggled to exert its influence much beyond the capital city. Al-Shabaab pulled out of parts of the capital last year but continues to attack.

The aid group Doctors Without Borders closed two health centers in the country this week after two of its volunteers were killed last year. Last week, The International Committee of the Red Cross, one of the few humanitarian groups still in Somalia, said it halted distribution of food aid because deliveries to central and southern Somalia were blocked.

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