Sunday, January 20, 2008

Final Burundian peace-keepers leave for Somalia: spokesman

BUJUMBURA (AFP) — The final members of the first battalion of Burundian soldiers to be deployed in Somalia as part of an African Union peace-keeping force left Bujumbura for Mogadishu Sunday, the Burundian army said.

The 210 soldiers -- the final element in a deployment of 850 soldiers -- were expected to arrive in war-torn Somalia late Sunday, nearly a month after the start of the deployment process.
The first Burundian soldiers arrived on December 24. They had been delayed for several months due to lack of supplies.

The commander of the Burundian forces, General Juvenal Niyoyankana, was among those making the trip Sunday.

Burundi is expected to deploy a total of 1,700 soldiers in Somalia, alongside around 1,600 troops from Uganda who have been in the capital Mogadishu since March.

"A second battalion of 850 troops is ready to go, although they are waiting for the right equipment," a Burundian army spokesman said.

"We would like to thank the US in particular, for giving us nearly all our uniforms, transport, all-terrain vehicles and radios," he added.

The African Union peace-keeping force in Somalia will ultimately number around 8,000 soldiers, in an attempt to stabilise the Horn of Africa country wracked by civil war for the past 16 years.
The capital, Mogadishu, has seen almost daily gun battles between Islamist insurgents and Somali and Ethiopian security forces.

Source: AFP

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