African Union beefs up Somali peacekeeping force

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Uganda has sent a third battalion of troops to Somalia to beef up the African Union peacekeeping force in the Horn of Africa nation.
Reuters reports the AU said in a statement after a meeting in Ethiopia on Monday that Algeria had helped the battalion deploy and that it wanted to get the force up to 8000 as originally planned.
The peacekeeping force consists of troops from Uganda and Burundi and stood at about 3500 before the latest deployment. A Ugandan battalion usually consists of some 800 soldiers. Burundi has also said it plans to send a third battalion.
News of the deployment is likely to enrage hardline al Shabaab Islamist insurgents who have launched deadly mortar and suicide attacks against the African troops this year, killing 11 in the deadliest strike.
Analysts say the insurgents are preparing to step up attacks on the peacekeepers and the new government of Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, the country’s first Islamist president.
Regional diplomats also say they have heard credible reports of weapons being flown into al Shabaab controlled areas.
Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged Somalis last week to topple Ahmed and called on Muslims to help them in their jihad.
A police officer at Mogadishu airport, who declined to be named, said troops had been arriving in the capital. Military transport planes have been landing there since the weekend.
“I can tell you that they even landed today, I don’t know their number, but also with military equipment,” he said. 
Al Shabaab insurgents, who control swathes of southern and central Somalia, say they are fighting to impose their strict version of Islamic law throughout the Horn of Africa nation and to rid the country of foreign invaders.
Residents in the al Shabaab controlled towns of Kismayo and Baidoa say foreign fighters, east Africans, Arabs and Asians, have arrived in recent weeks and now sport the popular green suit and black mask of al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab is on Washington’s list of foreign terrorist groups and security analysts believe its top leaders take orders directly from al Qaeda.
Ahmed was chairman of the Islamic Courts Union that ran Mogadishu in 2006 before being ousted by Ethiopian forces.
He faces the daunting task of trying to establish a new security force and persuade Islamist fighters to back the new government in the interests of peace.
Somalia’s cabinet voted this month to introduce sharia law, although parliament has yet to vote on the measure. Ahmed has also been reaching out to Somali elders and said this month he hoped to establish a direct dialogue with al Shabaab.
Al Shabaab insurgents, who control swathes of southern and central Somalia, say they are fighting to impose their strict version of Islamic law throughout the Horn of Africa nation and to rid the country of foreign invaders.