At least 250 soldiers of the Somali National Army (SNA) have graduated from a two-week long European Union-sponsored military training course focused on urban warfare and human rights.
Media reports from Mogadishu quoted SNA spokesman General Abdulkader Nur saying the training, which is provided by the European Union Training Mission in Somalia (EUTM), is part of the rebuilding of the national army so that it can defeat the Islamist Al Shabaab and other militias operating across the country.
Nur said the new graduates will soon be deployed on special military assignments and intelligence gathering operations against Al Shabaab in urban centres across the Horn of Africa country.
EUTM Somalia head Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi said the training was intended to build the operational capabilities of the army so that it can defeat terrorist groups and guarantee national security.
The graduation of the EUTM recruits coincided with the US confirming that it has trained two SNA commando units of 270 special forces in counter-insurgency, counter-terror operations, executive protection and rapid reaction.
According to US officials, more than 450 SNA troops will be trained into the three units of the Gaashan special forces by the end of this year.
SNA commander General Dahir Aden Elmi said the first unit of 150 special forces started training in October 2013, adding that training for the second unit is already under way. “They are receiving special training for fighting in the jungle and in the city. They can conduct any kind of operations in modern warfare, [including] guerrilla type,” Elmi said.
Last month, the SNA welcomed back 110 soldiers who returned from a 10-month long special forces training programme in Turkey. The soldiers were trained at a military academy in Istanbul in terms of a 2010 bilateral defence co-operation agreement in which Ankara agreed to provide training for the new Somali army.
Last month, France and the US agreed to train more SNA soldiers as the international capacity building programme for Somali defence and security forces gathers momentum.
“We want to help all African Nations especially Somalia where there are terrorist groups who are threat to the national security of the country,” US President Barrack Obama said after discussing ways of stemming the spread of terrorism in East Africa with French President Francois Hollande.
The EU training mission for Somalia shifted base to Mogadishu from Uganda at the end of 2013 after concluding the combat and intelligence training of 3 600 Somali troops who have since been deployed to various units fighting the Al Shebbab insurgency.
Meanwhile, 86 members of the European Union Training Mission Somalia (EUTM Somalia) were last week awarded with the Common Security and Defence Policy Service Medal for Somalia during a ceremony at the International Campus within the Mogadishu International Airport.
EUTM Somalia Mission Commander Brigadier General Massimo Mingiardi awarded the medal to members from Italy, Germany, Sweden, Netherlands, Hungary, Spain, Serbia, Belgium, Finland, and Portugal.
He said the medal is a sign of honour for ‘their efforts and their dedication’ to the EU’s mission of building a professional and accountable security and defence apparatus in Somalia.