AMISOM deploys 100 troops to Baidoa

April 06, 2012

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African Union troops deployed in the Somali city of Baidoa Thursday (April 5th), the first time the force has dispatched troops outside Mogadishu since it was set up five years ago.

The AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) sent 100 Burundian and Ugandan soldiers to Baidoa, which Ethiopian and Somali troops captured from the al-Qaeda-allied al-Shabaab movement in February.

"These 100 soldiers are the advance team for 2,500 AMISOM troops that will be deployed in phases. This team will be stationed alongside Ethiopian troops in Baidoa," AMISOM spokesman Paddy Ankunda said in a statement.

"Today is a major step forward for the African Union Mission and for everyone who wants to see peace in Somalia," said Audace Nduwumunsi, deputy force commander. He said the AU troops would gradually replace Ethiopian forces in the regions captured from al-Shabaab.

Al-Shabaab is facing a broad offensive by regional forces, with Kenyan troops battling them in the far south and Ethiopian troops in the southern and western Somalia regions. In recent months, Ethiopian troops have helped seized four al-Shabaab bastions.

Nduwumunsi called the widening AU deployment "the sharp end of the spear that will drive into the heart of territories controlled by al-Qaeda-backed extremists… They are losing ground and losing friends all over Somalia."

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