Ugandan troops to form U.N. guard force in Somalia

Source: Reuters - Mon, 3 Mar 2014 15:25 GMT
Author: Reuters
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Ugandan soldiers serving with the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) walk along a road during an advance on the central Somali town of Buur Hakaba, in this handout photograph taken and provided by the African Union-United Nations Information Support Team (AU-UN IST) on February 27, 2013. REUTERS/Stuart Price/AU-UN IST PHOTO/Handout
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MOGADISHU, March 3 (Reuters) - Uganda will send about 400 extra troops to Somalia to protect U.N. personnel in the capital Mogadishu, officials said on Monday.

The United Nations requested a guard force last year after al Shabaab militants attacked the main U.N. compound in Mogadishu in June, killing at least 22 people.

"It is to provide security to the United Nations so that AMISOM is not bogged down by escorting them. AMISOM (the African peacekeeping force) will be freed to follow al Shabaab wherever they are hiding," army spokesman Paddy Ankunda said.

The 410 Ugandan soldiers will be deployed this month, Ankunda said, though a U.N. official said the timeframe was ambitious.

The al Qaeda-affiliated rebels have staged many attacks in the city in the past few weeks despite the presence of the peacekeepers, including a Feb. 21 assault on the presidential palace and a bombing that targeted a U.N. convoy outside the airport. Both showed the insurgents' ability to hit government-controlled areas at will.

The guard force will not be a part of the expanded 22,000-strong AMISOM peacekeeping force that has driven al Shabaab out of its major urban redoubts in the past three years. The insurgents still control swathes of countryside.

(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh in Mogadishu, Richard Lough in Nairobi and Elias Biryabarema in Kampala, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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