US reopens Somalia embassy after almost three decades

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THE United States said on Wednesday it has reopened an embassy in Somalia’s capital, almost three decades after it was shuttered as a result of the country’s civil war.

Washington closed its embassy during the 1991 overthrow of president Siad Barre’s military regime which ushered in decades of chaos, however diplomatic relations have strengthened in recent years.

The US formally recognised Somalia’s new federal government in 2013 but had based its diplomatic mission in neighbouring Kenya.

‘Today we reaffirm the relations between the American people and the Somali people, and our two nations,’ said Ambassador Donald Yamamoto in a statement.

‘It is a significant and historic day that reflects Somalia’s progress in recent years, and another step forward in regularising US diplomatic engagement in Mogadishu since recognising the federal government of Somalia in 2013.’

A permanent diplomatic presence was established in Mogadishu in December 2018, however was operated out of Nairobi.

The country continues to be wracked by an Islamist insurgency, and Al Shabab militants on Monday staged an attack on a military base that is a major launching site for US drone operations, as well as a European Union convoy.

‘The United States remains a strong partner to Somalia in its effort to build a stable, credible, and democratic country,’ said the statement.

US strikes in Somalia surged in April 2017, after President Donald Trump declared the south of the country an ‘area of active hostilities.’

Rights groups on Tuesday accused the US military of killing three civilians in an air strike in Somalia, and failing to investigate claims they were farmers with no ties to Al Shabab.

Amnesty said its investigations revealed the trio killed in the March 18 strike in southern Somalia were innocent, despite US Africa Command (Africom) saying the men were extremists.

The US has stepped up drone strikes in Somalia in 2019 against what it says are fighters from Al Shabab, a militant outfit linked to Al Qaeda, and ISIS in Somalia.

But Amnesty alleges civilians have been among the dead, claiming it has documented more than a dozen cases of innocent people being killed in US air raids.

 

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