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Issue 442 -- July 17-23, 2010
U.S. Pledges More Support To Battle Somali Rebels
The Obama administration on Thursday said it would bolster its support to the African Union troops providing much of the firepower in Somalia's battle against al Shabaab, the Somali militant group that has claimed responsibility for Sunday's deadly blasts in Uganda.
The triple bombing in Kampala, Uganda's capital, killed 76 people, including one American, gathered in a restaurant and a bar during Sunday's World Cup soccer final.
Ugandan officials say they believe more than 20 members of Somalia's al Shabaab militant group entered Uganda several months before the blasts. Ugandan authorities have arrested nine people, all Somalis, in connection with the attack since Monday, according to a Ugandan military official close to the investigation.
Uganda is part of an African Union force that launched an offensive early this month, alongside Somalia's government, against al Shabaab militants who control large swaths of largely lawless Somalia.
An Al Shabaab leader on Thursday thanked its militants who carried out the weekend attacks and said more such attacks would be carried out in Uganda. "I say to the Ugandan president what has happened in Kampala was only the beginning. We will keep revenging what your soldiers remorselessly did to our people," Sheik Muktar Abu Zubayr said in an audio message played on Mogadishu radio stations, according to the Associated Press.
Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni said at a news conference Thursday that his country is committed to sending 2,000 more troops to Somalia that would add to some 3,500 Ugandan soldiers under the African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom.
U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, speaking in a briefing on Thursday, welcomed Uganda's pledge to add the troops. Mr. Crowley also said 63 FBI agents have arrived in the region to assist with the investigation into Kampala attacks.
"We have reviewed since Sunday the support that we're providing to Amisom. We are going to beef that up," Mr. Crowley said. "We've been the major contributor to the Amisom mission. That won't change."
The U.S. State Department, under a program known as Africap, provides funding for private contractors to train, outfit, transport and supply African troops in various peacekeeping missions. The State Department's latest contract, which began in September 2009, provides $1.5 billion to private contractors to outfit Amisom and other troops.
Sunday's attacks have soured many Ugandans on the presence of its countrymen as Somalia peacekeepers. But Mr. Museveni, who is up for reelection next year, said he won't pull troops from Somalia.
In a nod to critics, though, the president vowed to get tougher at home in order to prevent any attacks from al Shabaab. The initial targets of a security crackdown could be those in Uganda, notably the estimated 6,000 Somalis who mostly have fled fighting at home.
There have been several bomb scares throughout Kampala since Sunday's attacks, including six on Wednesday alone. Ugandan police say all were false alarms.
Write to Keith Johnson at email@example.com
Source: The Wall Street Journal, Friday, July 16, 2010