July 23, 2010 / 11:30 AM / in 10 years

Guinea will send troop battalion to Somalia: AU

A group of newly deployed African Union peacekeepers from Burundi walk along the streets of Mogadishu on their way to base October 12, 2008. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

KAMPALA (Reuters) - The African Union said on Friday that Guinea would send a battalion of troops to join a peacekeeping force in Somalia, the first pledge of action at an African summit to be dominated by the Somali crisis.

Somalia has shot to the top of the agenda at the AU summit in Uganda, to be attended by more than 30 heads of state, less than two weeks after Somali rebels launched their first attack on foreign soil with twin bomb attacks in the capital Kampala.

“We have today a full commitment with Guinea for a battalion,” AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping told reporters. “Guinea is ready to immediately send troops.”

East African regional bloc IGAD last month pledged to send another 2,000 troops to join more than 6,000 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi in Mogadishu. IGAD has not yet announced which countries will contribute peacekeepers.

The latest pledges would take the force, known as AMISOM, to more than 8,000-strong — the maximum allowed under its current mandate.

AU diplomats told Reuters that AMISOM’s mandate would be reviewed at the summit and it is likely the cap on troop numbers would be lifted.

A three-year insurgency in the Horn of Africa nation has killed at least 21,000 civilians and forced 1.5 million from their homes. Somalia’s Western-backed government now controls only a few streets of the capital Mogadishu.

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