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US Contractors Plead for More Security Aid For Somalia

As residents of Somalia's capital Mogadishu brace for an escalation of violence between government forces and Islamic militants, an official with a U.S. contractor providing security assistance is pleading for more international aid.

While hundreds of fighters loyal to the Islamic militant group al-Shabab filed into Mogadishu, thousands of residents fled to overstretched camps on the outskirts of the capital, bracing for more violence.

The Transitional Federal Government, which controls only small parts of Mogadishu, recently renewed promises to launch an all-out offensive against the insurgents. They control vast areas of the south as well as other strategic areas.

Mohamed Zayed is the special regional advisor for the U.S.-based Phoenix Intelligence Support firm. The company, made up of security and intelligence experts, has been awarded several contracts in Somalia to develop counter-insurgency forces as well as build a coast guard to fight rampant piracy.

Zayed says very little of the $250 million pledged in security aid by international donors for Somalia last year has actually been allocated for such capacity building efforts.

"The moneys are critical for capacity building, meaning the building of the Somali defense forces, police forces, intelligence, and counter-terrorism units in order to actually be an effective government, to actually fulfill their mandate to bring peace and stability to Somalia," said Mohamed Zayed. [This] can only be accomplished with capacity building efforts that are real and effective and they almost totally depend on revenue at this point from the international community to do that."

He says money has mostly been spent on African Union mission troops present in Somalia, whom he says can basically only keep key members of government alive.

Zayed says doing too little now to boost Somalia's security capacities could be very dangerous for east Africa and the rest of the world.

"Any security expert will tell you that it will become a nightmare situation, where you have the developments of al-Qaida and other fundamentalist groups using this very large and divisive territory, to proliferate fundamentalism, terrorist activities, criminality of all kind, and I think it will be a global security issue that will become literally everyone's worst nightmare," he said.

Government officials say well trained and fresh Somali forces are being deployed on front lines now preparing to attack.

But a spokesman for the al-Shabab group recently warned government forces will in his words, regret it, if they launch an attack. Al-Shabab leaders say they are opposed to the transitional government which was set up after an alliance of Islamic Courts were defeated by Ethiopian and Western-backed forces.

Al-Shabab fighters have also warned Kenya not to get involved, after accusations and denials that Kenya was training Somali militias to attack their positions in the south.

Many Mogadishu residents, who were fleeing to camps, said they were tired of violence, and that they believe renewed fighting would only make the situation worse.