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African Union summit boosts force in Somalia

Africa leaders in Uganda address the rising threat of Islamic extremism.

Commander of the African Union land forces in Somalia, Katumba Wamala, said that another four countries — Zambia, Ghana, Nigeria and mostly muslim Senegal — were “working with” Ugandan and Burundian troops in Mogadishu as they prepare to send ground forces.

Concern remains, however, that any offensive against Al Shabaab could increase the number of civilian deaths, risking popular support for the African Union mission.

Al Shabaab has imposed a strict version of Shariah law, including bans on music, bras and soccer, making the group generally unpopular throughout Somalia. The extremist organization has  executed people by stoning and meted out amputations as punishment for not following its Al Qaeda-style ideology.

Museveni was one of several who called for the Africa Union's mandate to be widened to include enforcement, which would allow peacekeepers to use force. Like the United Nations peacekeepers, African Union troops in Somalia are not allowed to attack unless fired upon first.

This issue was discussed in a private session of African foreign ministers, who agreed to change the peacekeeping mandate to enforcement. But the African leaders declined to endorse the proposed change.

African Union generals also called a special meeting to discuss Somalia.

"Our military people are having a meeting in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) to discuss the strategy and the logistics needed to deal with this Somali situation," said Erastus Mwencha, deputy chief of the African Union.

On the streets of Kampala, Ugandans debated whether their troops should remain in Somalia. Where they do agree is that if Uganda is to stay, more African nations need to pitch in.

"I am not sure we should be in Somalia, but if we are going to stay, we need help. This is an Africa problem, where is the rest of Africa?" asked James Mugisha, a 20-year-old street vendor.

In Kampala, Ugandan authorities have arrested several people suspected of involvement in the July 11 bombings.

Two were arrested in western Uganda, while a Yemeni has been arrested in the east, according to local reports.

In the United States, Abu Talhah Al Amrikee, from Fairfax, Va., was arrested at New York's John F. Kennedy airport on his way to Uganda. Al Amrikee is best known as Zachary Adam Chesser, who threatened the "South Park" cartoon creators if they continued to mock the Prophet Muhammad. He is alleged to have provided material support to Al Shabaab.

In total, security agencies around the world now hold more than 40 suspects in connection with the Kampala bombings, according to local reports.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/africa/100726/uganda-african-union-summit-boosts-forces-somalia