US reopens Somalia mission – in Kenya

Washington – The US mission to war-torn Somalia began work on Tuesday without an ambassador or an embassy and based in a neighboring country, the State Department said.

American diplomats will not be based in Mogadishu, scene of the infamous “Black Hawk Down” battle in 1993 that left 18 US servicemen and many hundreds of Somalis dead.

Instead, they will commute cautiously from Kenya’s capital Nairobi as they gradually work to strengthen Somalia’s internationally-backed government.

Washington recognised the Somali government in January 2013, and Secretary of State John Kerry visited Mogadishu in May, but the country is far from stable.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s forces are at war with the al-Shabaab Islamist militia and survive thanks to the 22 000 peacekeepers of the African Union AMISOM force.

Only last week, at least 50 African Union soldiers were reported killed when al-Shabaab fighters stormed a camp 80km from the capital.

“US officials will continue to travel to Somalia to conduct official business as security conditions permit,” the State Department said.

The mission will be based at the US embassy in Nairobi, itself the target of a 1998 al-Qaeda bombing that left more than 200 dead, and be headed by a charge d’affaires.