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US Says Somali Government Confident in Battle Against Islamists

The new top U.S. diplomat to Africa says Somalia's government is confident it can defend itself against Islamist militia who are battling for control of the capital.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jonnie Carson told VOA's Somali Service Friday that Somalia's foreign minister has told him his government is "not in imminent danger of being defeated by the insurgents." Carson met with Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Oomaar in Washington earlier on Friday.

Carson said the United States is deeply concerned about the recent fighting in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu.

Islamist insurgents have been waging an intense battle since last week against government forces and African Union peacekeepers to take control of the city. The United Nations says at least 135 people have died in the fighting and 34,000 residents have fled the city.

Carson also repeated U.S. accusations that Eritrea is helping to support the al-Shabab insurgents and said their actions are undermining the stability of the region.

Somalia's government controls only a few roads and key installations in Mogadishu with the help of around 4,000 African Union peacekeepers.