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US to double arms, ammunition aid to Somalia: official

The United States plans to double the amount of arms and ammunition it is providing Somalia's transitional government to help it fend off an Al-Qaeda inspired insurgency, a US State Department official said on Thursday.

world Updated: Aug 08, 2009 14:47 IST

The United States plans to double the amount of arms and ammunition it is providing Somalia's transitional government to help it fend off an Al-Qaeda inspired insurgency, a US State Department official said on Thursday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the plan was to double supplies of arms and ammunition 40 to 80 tonnes. "That's the idea," the official said.

The official also said Somalis were receiving military training in Djibouti, where the US military has a base covering the Horn of Africa.

Earlier in Nairobi, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with the president of Somalia's embattled transitional federal government, Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, and pledged "very strong support."

Clinton said the United States was prepared to meet his request for unspecified assistance.

Since late June the United States has been shipping the Somali government urgent supplies of arms and ammunitions to defend it against an insurgency by Al-Shabab, an Al-Qaeda inspired Islamist group backed by Eritrea.

An initial 40 tonnes of weapons and ammunition was directed to Somalia in late June.

"Because of what's going on in Somalia we are providing the transitional federal government ammunition, weapons to support the efforts of the government to try to provide security," State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

"We are in the process of trying to make sure that we can get the 40 tonnes of equipment to the TFG," he said, without confirming the plan to double the amount.

At the same time Clinton warned Eritrea to stop supporting the rebels.

"It is long past time for Eritrea to cease and desist its support of Al-Shebab and to start being a productive rather than a destabilizing neighbor," Clinton told a joint news conference with Sharif in Nairobi.

US officials have warned of possible sanctions and some US lawmakers have pressed for Washington to put Eritrea on a blacklist of state sponsors of terrorism.

Clinton expressed fear that the Shebab would turn Somalia into an extremist haven similar to the border area between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- which has been a top priority for the Obama administration.