Germany backs French effort to train Somali forces

30th September 2009, Comments 0 comments

France will train Somali soldiers in Djibouti, where the German army is already present, with some troops taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom, the US-led anti-terror mission.

Gothenburg -- Germany on Tuesday backed French efforts to help train the security forces in strife-torn Somalia, offering to conduct training in neighbouring Djibouti.

"I have given my general support to the French initiative to train the security forces" of Somalia, German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung told reporters, on the margins of EU defence talks in Gothenburg, southern Sweden.

France will train around 500 Somali soldiers in Djibouti, "where the German army is already present" with 115 troops taking part in Operation Enduring Freedom, the US-led anti-terror mission, he said.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana has been asked to draw up a plan for the training effort, Jung added.

Solana's spokeswoman said France has already trained up around 150 Somali soldiers, and that Spain might also be prepared to take part.

The EU is currently running an anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden off the Somali coast, but senior officials have long conceded the only real way to combat the problem is to tackle it on the ground.

Few nations, however, have stepped forward to help the training effort.

On May 7, hardline militia Hezb al-Islam and the Al Qaeda backed Shebab launched a broad military operation in Mogadishu and in southern and western Somalia aimed at toppling Somali President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The insurgents have accused Sharif, an Islamic cleric, of selling out to the West.

On Monday, Somali government forces recaptured a key western town on the border with Ethiopia during a brief battle with Islamist insurgents that left one dead, officials and witnesses said.


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