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Uganda Says Plans To Train Somali Army Still On
By Aweys Yusuf and Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU, Sept 27, 2007 - Ugandan peacekeepers from the African Union on Thursday said plans to train the Somali army were still on despite the insurgency.
Uganda has sent 1,600 soldiers to the Somali capital as part of a planned 8,000-strong AU force, but no other countries have yet arrived to back them up as they try to keep the peace amid an Islamist insurgency against the Somali interim government.
A Ugandan contingent arrived in Mogadishu on Thursday along with an AU assessment team to check the progress of the peacekeeping unit.
Gen. Katumba Wamala, commander of Uganda's ground forces, told reporters the deployment of military trainers was still on but said the timetable may have been delayed because of "logistical requirements".
"Our ultimate goal is to ... make them have their own army that can handle their own security."
That is a daunting task in a nation armed to the teeth since anarchy set in after the fall of dictator Mohamed Siyad Barre in 1991, and where death is a daily occurrence.
In the southern port of Kismayu 500 km (300 miles) south of the capital late on Wednesday, officials said three gunmen shot dead prominent religious preacher Sheikh Jeylani Sheikh Ali as he entered his home.
The European Union on Thursday joined a press watchdog in condemning the attempted murder of a Somali journalist working for an independent media house targeted in a government crackdown.
Somalia 's interim administration raided Shabelle media in Mogadishu last week, briefly arresting 18 staff and then spraying the building with gunfire during a second visit.
"Last week's events ... have illustrated that the right to freedom of expression in Somalia faces serious threats, which the European Union condemns," the EU said in a statement.
The watchdog Reporters Without Borders said the broadcaster's acting manager Jafar Kukay was then the target of an attack on Monday this week by a gunman who fired a pistol at him twice but missed.
"Caught in the crossfire of targeted killings and arbitrary arrests, Somali journalists have reached a critical threshold that is threatening the survival of an independent press in Somalia," the press group said in a statement on Thursday.
Shabelle has been off air since last week's raids, and Reporters Without Borders said the station's employees were either in hiding or trying to flee the country. Kukay could not immediately be reached for comment.
A security guard was wounded during the Sept. 18 siege at Shabelle, which -- with other independent local media -- has been accused by the authorities of supporting insurgents and had been taken off the air twice this year.
(Additional reporting by Mohamed Ahmed in Baidoa, Sahra Ahmed in Kismayu and Ingrid Melander in Brussels)