UN Renews Peacekeeping Mandate in Somalia

Posted September 30th, 2011 at 5:30 pm (UTC-5)
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The United Nations has renewed its mandate for its peacekeeping mission in Somalia as heavy fighting broke out near Somalia's border with Kenya,

The U.N. Security Council Friday also called on the African Union to increase the number of troops in Somalia to the maximum of 12,000, up from the 9,000 now deployed.

However, the Security Council did not agree to an A.U. request to increase the mandate to allow for 20,000 troops, saying it will reconsider once current cap is reached.

VOA's correspondent at the U.N. said some of the additional troops may come from Sierra Leone, while Burundi and Uganda also discussed raising their numbers. However she said there were no official commitments Friday.

The news comes as al-Shabab fighters attacked a town near the Kenyan border controlled by forces loyal to Somalia's transitional government.

The militant Islamist group carried out the attack on the southern Somali town of Dhobley, five kilometers from the border with Kenya. Witnesses say forces loyal to the government later regained control of the town.

Six al-Shabab militants were killed in the fighting, while government forces also suffered casualties.

Earlier this year, African Union troops and Somalia's Transitional Federal Government drove al-Shabab fighters out of Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, but the al-Qaida-linked group is still battling the government and controls large sections of southern and central Somalia.

The United Nations has declared six regions of south Somalia famine zones, most of which are under al-Shabab control. Al-Shabab has banned most foreign aid groups from operating in areas under its control.

The site of Friday's fighting, Dhobley, lies within the semi-autonomous state of Azania, about 100 kilometers from Dadaab, Kenya, which hosts the world's largest refugee camp.

Dadaab currently hosts 440,000 refugees. Conflict and drought in Somalia have sent a surge of refugees to the camp this year, with 150,000 people arriving in the past few months.

The U.N. refugee agency said earlier this month that 1,200 Somalis are crossing into Kenya on a daily basis.

The Horn of Africa is struggling with a severe drought that has left more than 13 million people in need of food aid.