10 Killed in Battle to Keep Somali Aid Flowing

Posted July 28th, 2011 at 8:35 pm (UTC-5)
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At least 10 people were killed and 30 wounded in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Thursday as African Union and government troops fought militants trying to stop food aid from entering the country.

Fighting broke out a day after the United Nations' World Food Program airlifted 14 tons of food into Somalia, which is experiencing its worst drought in 60 years. Thousands of Somalis are suffering from malnutrition and thirst.

But militants with the al-Qaida-linked group al-Shabab have banned U.N. aid. The militants are trying to turn Somalia into a staunchly Islamic state and already control much of the country. They say the United Nations and other Western agencies have spies.

A spokesman for African Union peacekeepers says the AU is striving to ensure starving Somalis receive vital supplies. The U.N. estimates 11 million people in the Horn of Africa need emergency aid.

An official with the medical charity, Doctors Without Borders, tells the Reuters news agency that he does not expect any letup in the number of malnutrition cases among Somali children until November at the earliest, when the rainy season usually starts.

The U.N. has declared a famine in two sections of southern Somalia, both of which are al-Shabab strongholds. The U.N. is expected to airlift more aid this week to eastern Ethiopia and northern Kenya, near the Somali border, where thousands of Somalis are filling already overcrowded refugee camps.

Also Thursday, the European Union announced a one-year extension of its military mission aimed at training Somali security forces.