Militants fighting to overthrow Somalia's U.N.-backed government have
condemned talks at the African Union summit in Libya, where African
leaders are considering giving the African Union peacekeeping mission
in Somalia a stronger mandate to pursue and fight the insurgents.
A spokesman for Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab militant group, Ali Mohamed Rage warned Friday that any attempts to expand the current mandate of the African Union peacekeeping mission, known as AMISOM, would be met with violent resistance.
Rage says the summit in Libya is being held to change the mandate of AMISOM troops, so that they can destroy more Somali homes and kill more civilians.
The al-Shabab spokesman was alluding to charges made by Somalis and international human rights groups, accusing AMISOM of sometimes firing their weapons indiscriminately in response to insurgent attacks and killing civilians. AMISOM has denied any wrongdoing.
Since Ethiopia ended its occupation of Somalia in January, al-Shabab has focused its guerrilla war on AMISOM and the Somali government under moderate Islamist leader Sharif Sheik Ahmed. Al-Shabab and another militant group called Hisbul Islam have rejected President Sharif's call for reconciliation and have vowed to overthrow the government.
Since early May, near-daily fighting between government forces and rebels in Mogadishu has killed more than 300 people and has uprooted more than 170,000. Last month, the government urged neighboring countries to send troops to Somalia to defend against Somali extremists and foreign allies pouring into the country.
Somalia's deteriorating security situation topped the agenda during a three-day African Union summit in Libya that began on Wednesday.
On the sidelines of the summit on Thursday, Somali Foreign Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Omar told the Reuters news agency that several more battalions of AMISOM troops are likely to be deployed in Mogadishu and that AMISOM's rules of engagement may be changed to allow the troops to do more than defend against insurgent attacks.
AMISOM was created to help Somalia's secular transitional government stabilize the country after Ethiopia ousted the country's ruling Islamic Courts Union in December, 2006. The mission's mandate was limited to guarding key sites in the capital and providing local humanitarian aid and support.
The African Union planned to have a force about 8,000 troops. But a prolonged Islamist-led insurgency in Mogadishu and a chronic lack of funding have kept several African countries from fulfilling their pledge to contribute troops.
The mission currently has about 4,300 troops from Uganda and Burundi, who are largely confined to their bases near the airport, seaport, and the presidential palace.