Regional leaders seek to step up war on Somalia rebels

Thu Nov 17, 2011 5:51am GMT

By James Macharia and Feisal Omar

NAIROBI/MOGADISHU (Reuters) - The leaders of Kenya, Uganda and Somalia agreed to intensify efforts to defeat Islamist fighters in Somalia on Wednesday, at their first meeting since Kenya sent in troops to crush the militants.

The Nairobi meeting followed fresh night-time mortar attacks on the Somali capital Mogadishu by al Shabaab insurgents, highlighting the challenges President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed faces in restoring stability.

Kenya deployed hundreds of soldiers across its porous frontier five weeks ago, blaming al Shabaab for a wave of kidnappings on Kenyan soil.

In the last week, senior Kenyan government ministers have shuttled around the region and travelled to the Gulf to drum up political and financial support for a coordinated campaign to rout the al Qaeda-linked rebels.

"The meeting emphasized the need for enhancing coordination between AMISOM, TFG forces and Kenya Defence forces in order to successfully defeat al Shabaab," said Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula, who briefed reporters after the leaders' meeting.

Kenya, the region's biggest economy, said it had offered to add to the more than 9,000 Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers who are propping up the shaky Western-backed Somali government. It did not specify how many.

The Somali government now controls virtually the entire capital for the first time since the overthrow of dictator Siad Barre in 1991 allowed first warlords, then Islamist militants, to step into the political vacuum.

But Ahmed's administration has virtually no control over the rest of the anarchic country.   Continued...

Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni (L), his Kenyan counterpart Mwai Kibaki and Somalia's President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed (R) attend a joint news conference on the security situation in Somalia at the State House in Kenya's capital Nairobi, November 16, 2011. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
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