x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Al Shabab still undermines Somalia, UN chief warns

Ban Ki-moon says Somalia can still slide back into being a failed state, calling on countries to aid the African Union-led peacekeeping there to take the fight to the militants.

UNITED NATIONS // Ban Ki-moon, warning that Somalia could slide back into being a failed state, called on countries around the world to provide the African Union-led peacekeeping force there with attack helicopters and armored troop carriers to take the fight to Al-Shabab militants in the field.

The UN Secretary-General called on members, including African countries not yet involved, to provide the African Union-led peacekeeping force with attack helicopters, armoured troop carries and other support to root out the Al Qaeda-allied Al Shabab.

"The political, security and development gains made so far in Somalia are still reversible," Mr Ban said in a report to the Security Council. A -Shabab "continues to undermine security throughout the country, including in Mogadishu."

"Allowing Al Shabab to continue its training and conduct terrorist activities from bases in Somalia will not only undermine peace in Somalia, but also that of the wider region," he said.

The AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia - known as Amisom - is endorsed by the UN Security Council and is meant to pave the way for an eventual UN peacekeeping force. It is led by Ugandan officers, and also has large Kenya and Burundi contingents. It has more than 17,000 troops.

The United Nations has especially been stung since Al Shabab attacked the UN compound in Mogadishu on June 19, killing a UN Development Program staffer, thee UN contractors, four Somali guards and at least six Somali bystanders. It was the first direct attack on a UN building in Somalia since 2008.

Since then, the international aid group Doctors Without Borders has pulled out of Somalia, citing increasing dangers there.

Somalia has long been plagued by cyclical drought and famine and decades of armed conflict. But in recent years it has been seen as making strides in security and governance, particularly since August 2011, when militants were forced out of Mogadishu.

Al Shabab still controls much of the country's south.