The UN and African envoys on Monday said the 21,126 African troops deployed to Somalia in January had launched military assault against the Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabaab.
UN Special Envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Kay said that the deployment of the additional troops made it possible to launch the “most ambitious operation’’ since the launch of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
“I can describe the situation in Somalia as a moment full of progress and challenges,’’ Kay said after attending an AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) briefing on Somalia in Addis Ababa.
The 15-member council met at its 425th session to discuss the situation in Somalia and called for the contribution of 12 tactical helicopters.
AU Special envoy to Somalia, Saleh Annadif said that the AU had appealed for the 12 helicopters to boost the ongoing operation against the al-Shabaab.
The Somali National Army and the AMISOM troops comprising, Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda have launched an operation to free key towns in South Central Somalia.
“AMISOM is already benefiting from the UN Logistical Support.
“We have appealed for helicopters.
“The PSC believes it is important to consolidate these gains,” Anadif told journalists, saying their deployment will enhance the operational capacity of the troops.
Six of the 12 helicopters will be used to combat the militants, while another six will be deployed to transport wounded troops and other logistics.
The AU envoy said that the current number of troops was adequate to address Somalia’s security needs.
“We asked for additional troops in 2013, we had 17,000 and the UN Security Council approved additional 4,395, we had Ethiopian troops added to the mission, these are the troops carrying out this operation,’’ he said.