Beledweyne — The defense minister of the Republic of Djibouti Mr. Abdulkadir Mohamed Kamil visited African Union forces (AMISOM) stationed in Beledweyne town in central Somalia on Sunday, Garowe Online reports.
Minister Kamil was accompanied by Djiboutian army commander Gen. Zakarie Sheikh Ibrahim and held meetings with AMISOM commanders and Somali local officials in Beledweyne, the provincial capital of Hiran region in central Somalia.
"We traveled to Beledweyne to assess the problems here. AMISOM forces will work towards building peace in Beledweyne. There were killings in the past, but criminals will be apprehended," said Djiboutian Defense Minister Abdulkadir Mohamed Kamil.
Djibouti, along with Uganda, Burundi and Kenya, are troop-contributing countries for AMISOM peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
Ethiopian troops seized Beledweyne in Dec. 2011 from Al Shabaab group and Djiboutian contingent of AMISOM deployed in Beledweyne earlier this year. There are plans to boost the presence of AMISOM forces in Beledweyne to allow the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops, according to international reports.
Gen. Zakarie Sheikh Ibrahim visited a group of 102 Somali soldiers receiving military training in Beledweyne district.
"Somalia's assistance to Djibouti during the independence period was instrumental and Djibouti is now here in Beledweyne to help our Somali brothers," Gen. Zakarie said, adding: "We [Djibouti] have never seen Beledweyne, but we came here to help. The youth is the backbone and Somalis need unity and nationalism, or our mission to help Somalia recover will fail."
Hiran provincial governor Abdifatah Hassan Afrah told local media after meetings that local officials' discussions with the senior Djiboutian government delegation included a request for increasing the proposed force level for AMISOM troops in Beledweyne to 2,000 soldiers.
The current plan allocates 1,000 soldiers for AMISOM mission in Beledweyne, Mr. Afrah added.
It is the first high profile visit by a Djiboutian official to Beledweyne since Djiboutian-AMISOM forces deployed in Beledweyne earlier 2012.