Britain to target Somalia terror training at conference
Britain pledged Thursday to use a London conference on Somalia next year to come up with new measures to combat terror training in the war-torn country.
International development minister Andrew Mitchell told BBC radio that the large number of British nationals attending Somali training camps were a security risk which needed to be addressed urgently.
"It's right that we should deepen our involvement because Somalia is a very direct threat to the security of the United Kingdom," he said.
"There are probably more British passport holders engaged in terrorist training in Somalia than in any other country in the world."
He insisted however that Britain had "no intention of putting boots on the ground". He stressed that London was already supporting the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM).
Other issues on the agenda at the February 23 gathering would be a recent famine, piracy and drug-running.
Representatives at the conference, announced last month by Prime Minister David Cameron, will come from countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda and the United States, a British government source said.
A final list of attendees is yet to be announced.
The Foreign Office added that "urgent action" was needed on Somalia.
"Somalia poses significant threats to international security, as a base for terrorists and pirates who threaten the security and prosperity of people around the world," the ministry said in a statement.
The conference was aimed "at delivering a new international approach to Somalia," it said.
"It will form the basis for coordinated and sustained international leadership on Somalia, bringing together international partners."
The Horn of Africa country has been ravaged by a nearly uninterrupted civil war since the 1991 overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre sparked vicious bloodletting by rival militias fighting for power.
Al-Qaeda linked Shebab rebels control large parts of southern Somalia. A recent surge in fighting between the insurgents and government forces backed by African Union troops and Kenyan soldiers has forced thousands to flee.
© 2011 AFP