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Somalia to Halt UAE Funding for Troops as Relations Sour

FILE - A general view of Aden Adde airport in Mogadishu, Somalia, Oct. 24, 2017.

As relations with the United Arab Emirates sour over the seizure of millions of dollars in cash, Somalia announced Wednesday it would end UAE funding for its armed forces.

Defense Minister Mohamed Mursal's comments to reporters came shortly after the UAE condemned what it called an "illegal" move by Somalia to seize $9.6 million from an aircraft at the Mogadishu airport over the weekend.

The UAE's state news agency, WAM, said some of the 47 Emirati Armed Forces personnel on the plane were held at gunpoint and assaulted by Somali security forces. The money was allocated to support the Somali army and trainees, WAM reported.

"The UAE deplores this violation of international law and norms at a time when the UAE has provided all kinds of political, economic, military and humanitarian support in the darkest conditions to establish security and stability" in Somalia, the foreign ministry statement carried on WAM said.

Somalia's government has dismissed such reports.

It announced the seizure Sunday, saying security forces boarded the plane and discovered three unmarked bags of cash during routine checks. A security ministry statement said the bags were full of U.S. dollars and an investigation was under way to determine why they had been smuggled into the country.

Somalia's defense minister said all of the UAE-trained Somali troops would be integrated into army units by Thursday. "It's our duty as the government to ensure the salaries for our army — not that it has to bother other people," he said.

Somali officials have long claimed that the UAE-trained troops were taking orders from UAE military advisers rather than Somalia's government, and that they conducted unilateral raids targeting politicians and others. In recent months, the UAE-trained forces repeatedly clashed with other Somali forces, leaving dozens of people dead.

Relations between Somalia and the UAE have been strained since the oil-rich Gulf country's Dubai-owned DP World port operator began operating a major port in Somalia's breakaway territory of Somaliland last year. The UAE also has invited Somaliland officials for state visits and is building a military base there, suggesting that the country is moving toward recognizing Somaliland's independence.