BEIRUT

Middle East

UN Security Council envoys visit war-torn Somalia

A Somali girl cries at the scene where her mother died as a result of a blast while sweeping a section of Taleh street in Mogadishu August 3, 2014. (REUTERS/Feisal Omar)

MOGADISHU: U.N. Security Council ambassadors met with Somalia's president Wednesday under heavy security in the war-ravaged capital Mogadishu, the presidency said in a statement.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and top government officials met the U.N. envoys "to discuss progress in Somalia", the presidency said in a statement.

The U.N.-mandated African Union force provided armed guards for the diplomats, as they visited their fortified base at Mogadishu airport.

Somalia's hardline Shebab Islamists are fighting to topple the internationally backed government.

The visit comes amid growing warnings of a humanitarian crisis, three years after more than 250,000 people, half of them children, died in a devastating famine.

The envoys are not expected to travel outside the airport's concrete blast walls, defended by AU troops, into the city itself.

The Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab continue to launch attacks in the heart of Mogadishu, including recent brazen commando raids on the presidential palace and parliament.

The U.N. has warned that Somalia is sliding back into an acute hunger crisis, with more than 350,000 people in Mogadishu in need of food aid and parts of the city facing emergency levels just short of famine.

Somalia's government, selected in 2012, was widely hailed as offering the best chance in decades to repair the war-ravaged country.

But the return of extreme hunger, accusations of corruption and continued attacks even in the most heavily defended zones by the Shebab have cast a shadow over the government's record.

Shebab fighters once controlled most of southern and central Somalia, but have been driven out of fixed positions in Mogadishu and most major towns by the 22,000-strong AU force.

 

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