The Shabaab insurgents, who have links to al Qaeda, also hit the AU’s main military base in Mogadishu with twin suicide car bombs last Thursday, killing 17 peacekeepers.
“We are in a very, very difficult situation. But we cannot leave Somalia to the extremists. There is an al Qaeda influence in Somalia which is growing, seeking a foothold and we have to stop them somewhere,” European Union Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Karel De Gucht told Reuters after meeting with UN diplomats and officials.
“If we let this happen, then the next question is what is the next country. We have to be resilient and to stand firm. It is extremely difficult, risky, but we have no choice.
“They (al Qaeda) are looking for strongholds in failed states. That’s what happened in Afghanistan. The government did a deal with the Taliban and we cannot let that happen or we will have a new Afghanistan,” De Gucht added.
Fighting has killed more than 18 000 Somalis since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes.
Peacekeepers should be given more resources to push back the insurgents, but more important, De Gucht said, Western nations must invest more money to help the government “stand on their own feet” and provide basic public services such as sanitation and healthcare.
“The EU Commission has decided to renew financing up to €60 million (R659 million) (for peacekeeping missions) and we are working in a very difficult environment, but security is paramount,” De Gucht said.
“The government needs more aid from the international community to be able to outreach outside of Mogadishu to deliver basic social services and own resources to show the people that they have credibility and not to turn to the insurgents.”
Pic: Al- Shabaab rebels