US says weapons sent to Somalia

BBC News, June 25, 2009

The US has confirmed that it has sent weapons to Somalia's UN-backed transitional government.

The state department said the move followed an urgent call for help from the government, which has been fighting hardline Islamist militias.

The insurgents control swathes of Somalia and US officials have been alarmed at their gains, analysts say.

The US would also provide logistical support for training Somali troops, officials said.

"At the request of that government, the state department has helped to provide weapons and ammunition on an urgent basis," spokesman Ian Kelly said.

The arms would help the government "repel the onslaught of extremist forces which are intent on... spoiling efforts to bring peace and stability to Somalia", he added.

The US would also provide support for training Somali troops but would not conduct the training themselves, officials said.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991.

President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, took office in January but even his introduction of Sharia law to the strongly Muslim country has not appeased the guerrillas.

Since 7 May, an alliance of militant Islamist hardliners has been locked in ferocious battles with pro-government forces in the capital, Mogadishu.

The alliance already controls parts of the capital and much of southern Somalia.

Last week the Somali government called for urgent foreign military assistance to help prop up the government.

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