UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations warned that the Somalia insurgents Shebab are a serious international security threat, as it made a new appeal Monday for the nation's transitional government to end its squabbling.
Somalia will be in the UN spotlight with a debate on the strife-torn African country at the Security Council on Thursday and a top level ministerial meeting on the conflict at the UN General Assembly summit next week.
In a report to the Security Council, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that "horrific" suicide bomb attacks by followers of the Al-Qaeda inspired militant group in Uganda in July had shown the growing threat from Al-Shebab.
Seventy-six people were killed and Ban said: "The attacks demonstrated that Al-Shebab remains a serious security threat for Somalia, the sub-region and the wider international community."
Twenty years of civil war has brought Somalia virtually to its knees but the rise of Shebab is a growing concern for Western nations, on top of the pirates operating out of Somalia harbours.
Some 7,200 troops in a poorly equipped African Union mission (AMISOM) are all that stops Shebab taking over the Somali capital. With thousands reported dead in Mogadishu this year, the UN report said the city's "already weak health services are struggling to cope with casualties."
A special envoy for Ban, Augustine Mahiga, an African Union envoy, Boubacar Diarra, and an East African peace envoy, Kipruto Arap Kirwa, were at Mogadishu airport on Thursday meeting Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, head of the transitional federal government, when a suicide bomber killed five people there.
The government is in disarray and the three envoys on Monday warned that the divisions were "potentially very damaging" to efforts to end the chaos.
The transitional government is scheduled to end in August 2011 but has so far achieved little, analysts said, amid repeated political battles which in recent months has seen the president dissolve the cabinet and the parliament speaker resign.
"Somali forces and the African Union peacekeeping troops of AMISOM risk their lives each day to protect the transitional federation institutions and defend the integrity of the peace process," the three envoys said in a statement released in Nairobi.
"The leaders and politicians need to demonstrate their unity of purpose to show they are working together to restore peace to Somalia."
A similar message was sent by the UN secretary general who highlighted international efforts to promote peace in spite of the "internal disputes" and "political complications".
Ban said the international financial crisis has hit efforts to boost the African peacekeeping force. The United Nations does not have the resources to pay Somali police and civil servants nor fully compensate AMISOM troops.
"I remind all parties to the conflict that those found responsible for war crimes will face justice," Ban said. "In that regard I support the proposal to document the most serious violations committed, as an essential step in the fight against impunity."
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