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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 March 2007, 09:21 GMT
First peacekeepers are in Somalia
Government soldiers patrol Mogadishu, 24/2/2007
Government forces are struggling to prevent violence
A small advance team of African Union troops has arrived in Somalia, say officials in the country.

Police sources and airport staff in the southern town of Baidoa told a BBC correspondent that 30 soldiers had arrived in the town on a plane.

The group are believed to be Ugandans, although this is denied. Their forces will be the first to deploy in Somalia.

Some 8,000 AU peacekeepers are to be sent to Somalia to replace Ethiopian troops, who ousted Islamists last year.

But so far only half that number have been contributed by AU member states.

Nigeria has said its 850 soldiers will be deployed from the middle of April in three phases. Other countries that have pledged to send troops are Ghana and Burundi.

New violence

Uganda is to send about 1,700 troops, and President Yoweri Museveni has attended a ceremony in the eastern town of Jinja to see off the first contingent of troops.

He confirmed that two battalions are being sent, one infantry and one tank support.

AU FORCE IN SOMALIA
Map
Uganda: 1,700
Nigeria: 850
Burundi: 1,700
Ghana: unconfirmed

Mr Museveni said that they were going to support and empower the Somali government and insisted that Ugandan troops would not be disarming Somalis on the ground.

Officials in the Ugandan military deny sending an advance party and maintain that their first troops will not embark for Somalia until the beginning of next week

Somalia has seen a new spike in violence in recent weeks, two months after Ethiopian troops backed a campaign against the Union of Islamic Courts by the country's transitional government and took control.

More than 10,000 civilians have fled Mogadishu in the past two weeks, the United Nations estimates.

Officials have blamed the rise in violence on the high number of weapons available in the capital, Mogadishu.

An insurgency launched by ousted Islamists also appears to be making its mark, with daily attacks - often targeting Ethiopian forces.

There have been several protests against the deployment of AU forces in Somalia, even though many Somalis are keen to see the departure of Ethiopian forces as quickly as possible.

Islamist insurgents have warned that foreign peacekeepers are not welcome in Somalia.

Mogadishu incidents

In the latest violence, two people were killed during a fire exchange between security guards belonging to the head of the Mogadishu port and unknown gunmen who ambushed his convoy.

Wounded woman brought to hospital in Mogadishu, 24/2/2007
Peacekeepers are being deployed as violence is on the rise

"Militiamen ambushed Abdi Jiidow convoy as he was retuning home in southern Mogadishu killing one of his guards. They responded and in the process of the shoot-out killed one of the attackers" witnesses told AFP news agency.

And in a separate incident, masked men attacked a car belonging Ibrahim Abdi Adan, the police chief in southern Mogadishu. A civilian was injured and a suspect has been arrested following the shoot out.

Security guards say the suspect and his colleagues were trying plant explosives by the roadside.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Details of the AU deployment to Somalia





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