Somalia accredits five European ambassadors

Somalia accredited ambassadors from five European nations Tuesday, a move hailed by the president as sending a signal that the war-ravaged nation was "becoming a normal country."

Ambassadors of Belgium, France, Germany, Spain and Finland presented their credentials to Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who said he hoped Somalia would "soon see many international flags flying over Mogadishu".

All the ambassadors are based in Nairobi, the capital of neighbouring Kenya due to security concerns.

Somalia has been ravaged by conflict since 1991 but a new UN-backed government took power in September, ending eight years of transitional rule by a corruption-riddled administration.

Many have said the new government offers the most serious hope for stability since the fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

Few countries have an ambassador based in Mogadishu, with those that do including Ethiopia, Iran, Turkey and Yemen.

From Europe, ambassadors from Britain and Italy are also accredited but are based in Nairobi.

Large parts of Somalia have been carved up by rival militia forces who have developed autonomous regions that pay little, if any, heed to the weak central government.

However Shebab Islamist insurgents are on the back foot, having fled a string of key towns ahead of a 17,000-strong African Union force, which is fighting alongside Somali government troops to wrest territory from the extremists.

Ethiopian troops are also battling the Shebab in the southwest of Somalia.