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Nigeria Delays Troop Deployment in Somalia


Nigeria says it is reluctant to send troops to bolster the African Union peacekeeping force (AMISON) in strife-torn Somalia, because of relentless attacks on peacekeepers.

The Nigerian government said in August, a battalion of 850 officers and soldiers were to be deployed within weeks. But the deployment has been repeatedly stalled. And now Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe says Nigeria is skeptical about troop deployment in Somalia because of the current hostile atmosphere in that country.

"At the time the commitment was made to go to Somalia, what was on ground was peacekeeping," he said. "But the situation in Somalia has deteriorated considerably. We are not in a hurry to start getting the body bags to this country.

"If we are going to risk the lives of our young men and women, if we are going to put our young men and women in harm's way, it has to be a carefully analyzed mission response. It should not be without adequate planning and it should not be without adequate logistical, material support," he added.

More than 16,000 civilians have been killed and a million displaced in two years of fighting in Somalia. The Horn of Africa nation has not had an affective national government since 1991, when Mohammed Siad Barre was forced from power.

The African Union says its peacekeeping force in Somalia, which has about 3,500 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi- is in desperate need of reinforcement. The AU expects to deploy a force of 8,000 troops in Somalia.

Burundian peacekeepers based in southern Mogadishu came under attack on Sunday, resulting in the deaths of 11 peacekeepers. Suicide bombers blew themselves up near a compound used by the Burundian contingent. The hard-line Islamist al-Shabab movement claimed responsibility.

Nigeria has sent peacekeepers into several war zones in the past around Africa, including Darfur in Sudan, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

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