The Pentagon plan is aimed at helping to build the counterterrorism of Uganda and Burundi, two African Union nations
By Lolita C. Baldor
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military equipment, including four small drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help battle the escalating terror threat in Somalia.
The latest aid, laid out in documents obtained by The Associated Press, comes as attacks intensify in Somalia against the al-Qaida-linked terror group al-Shabab, including an airstrike late Thursday that hit a militant convoy, killing a number of foreign fighters, according to officials there.
U.S. officials, including incoming Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, have warned that the threat from al-Shabab is growing, and the group is developing stronger ties with the Yemen-based al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula. Panetta told lawmakers earlier this month that as the core al-Qaida leadership in Pakistan undergoes leadership changes, with the killing of Osama bin Laden, the U.S. needs to make sure that the group does not relocate to Somalia.
The Pentagon plan is aimed at helping to build the counterterrorism of Uganda and Burundi, two African Union nations that have sent about 9,000 peacekeeping forces to Somalia. The military aid includes four small, shoulder-launched Raven drones, body armor, night-vision gear, communications and heavy construction equipment, generators and surveillance systems. Training is also provided with the equipment.
In addition, the Pentagon will send $4.4 million in communications and engineering equipment to Uganda.
Somalia has not had a fully functioning government in two decades. The government controls just a small slice of Mogadishu, but officials have said that the peacekeeping offensive is enabling them to wrest swaths of territory in the city and in southern Somalia from the insurgents.