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US pledges military aid to Somalia

By Jonathan Rugman

Updated on 06 August 2009

The US throws its weight behind Somalia's fragile government - 16 years after American soldiers were killed in Mogadishu in a battle that inspired the film Black Hawk Down.

Somalian insurgent(credit: Reuters)

At that time, Bill Clinton was president. Today his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, met Somalia's President in Nairobi, promising military aid as the government takes on Islamist militants.

In an interview with this programme, the president of neighbouring Eritrea defended the militants.

But Ms Clinton said action would be taken if Eritrea continued interfering in Somalia.

She made the announcement during talks in Kenya with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, whose administration is battling hard-line Islamist militants, including the al-Shabaad insurgent group.

Ms Clinton said: "It is fair to say that President Obama and I want to expand and extend our support for the transitional federal government."

Australian police announced earlier this week they had uncovered a plot to attack a Sydney army base by men they said had links to al-Shabaab.

Ms Clinton said the presence of "terrorist elements" in Somalia posed a threat to Africa and beyond.

She added: "With respect to Eritrea, we are making it very clear that their actions are unacceptable ... and we intend to take action if they do not cease."

"We are with Somali resistance"
In an interview with Channel 4 News Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki defended Somalia's militants saying that as his country supported all Somalis it would be a "mistake" to limit this support to "one or two groups."

"We support all resistance from anyone in Somalia," he said.

"Somalis have worked with outside forces for money for fame for what have you. They have collaborated with outsiders, we are against collaborators - we are with Somalis."

"You may not agree with the ideology of al-Shabaab, Somalis may not agree with the ideology of al-Shabab but it’s up to them to have their own ideology. You need to respect their choice.

"Categorising anyone political group as terrorist isn’t qualified as a common understanding of that qualification. Now, anyone in any government will call an opposition a terrorist organisation."

Mr Afwerki claimed that the United States and its allies had "created a situation of chaos in Somalia by providing weapons" to warlords but that he didn't think a culture of blame was the solution.

"I wish we had the resource and we had the ability to support Somali resistance in any way. Physically, it hasn’t been possible. Theoretically, we may want to see that happen.

"We don’t want to get into this cycle of accusations and counter-accusations on who’s being supplying this or that faction in Somalia for the last 20 years.

"We would like resistance to succeed in Somalia and Somalis to be left alone to find a solution for their own problems without an external intervention.

"If you agree to that, pull out from Somalia. Don’t supply weapons to warlords. Don’t divide and weaken Somalia. You leave Somalia to Somalis and Somalis will find a solution for themselves. As long as this conflict continues, we remain supportive of the resistance in Somalia in any form."

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