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Tuesday, 27 November, 2001, 23:36 GMT
Somalia welcomes US troops
Somali children suffering from famine
Somalis are already struggling to cope with drought and war
Somalia's new interim prime minister, Hassan Abshir Farah, has said America could deploy troops in the country to monitor and track down alleged terrorists activities there.

Somalia is on Washington's list of terrorist states and US intelligence officials are reported to believe that al-Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan may head for the Somali capital Mogadishu.

Somali PM Hassan Abshir Farah
Somalia's interim PM would like to target infiltrators
But on a visit to neighbouring Ethiopia Mr Abshir denied his government has links with terrorist groups and reiterated its supports for the international fight against terrorism.

He said that as the Transitional National Government (TNG) does not control all of Somalia and lacks essential resources, it would need international help to monitor and detect what he called "terrorist infiltration".

Mr Farah said he held talks with the US ambassador to Ethiopia, and said he was confident that their discussions would prove beneficial.

Little evidence

The US has recently begun taking action against the country.

In its first move against Somalia, Washington has secured the freezing of assets of al-Barakaat, Somalia's largest company with interests in telecommunications, banking and postal services.

But a senior United Nations diplomat says US moves to close Somali companies for alleged terrorist links will only compound hardships in a country already faced with drought and a regional ban on cattle exports.

One can see almost a unique situation, which could be the complete economic collapse of the society of Somalia

UN diplomat Randolph Kent

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Co-ordinator for Somalia, Randolph Kent, told the BBC the country was already close to "complete economic collapse".

Mr Kent said there was little evidence to link al-Barakaat with Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

'Close to the precipice'

Al-Barakaat and the Somalia Internet Company appeared earlier this month on a US list of companies and individuals suspected of funnelling money to al-Qaeda.

Along with denying all internet access to Somalis, the closure of these firms have severely restricted international telephone lines and shut down vitally needed money-transfer facilities.

Mr Kent said the moves had brought Somalia "close to the precipice of complete and total economic failure".

"It's the $100, the $150 that go to people in Somalia via al-Barakaat that ensures two things.

"One is the livelihood of individual family members themselves, but also the kind of small investments which keep a portion of the Somali economy kicking over," he said.

He added the UN had expressed "clear and vocal concern" to members of the international community.

But he had received replies that Somalis were entrepreneurial and would find alternatives.

And while the UN was not "in the business of investigation", Mr Kent said the alleged link between al-Barakaat and al-Qaeda "does not seem to be very evident".

But, journalist Bill Gertz of the Washington Times told the BBC that US intelligence officials had drawn up contingency plans for military strikes on targets inside Somalia.

Pentagon fears

"There are real concerns that al-Qaeda, under pressure in Afghanistan, will seek to set up a base of operations in Somalia because of the weak government there," he told the BBC.

al-Barakaat hoarding
The UN says there is little evidence to connect al-Barakaat with al-Qaeda

He said the Pentagon believed that al-Qaeda was involved in the 1993 killing of 18 US rangers in Mogadishu.

He added there was even "word" that Mohamed Atta, one of the World Trade Center hijackers, was connected to the training of Somali militias at the time.

Asked if US support for Somalia's transitional government would be more constructive than bombing, Mr Gertz said there were those in the State Department who favoured such a policy.

"But the sentiment here... is that we've been attacked by this terrorist organisation," he said.

"There's a real sense of a war footing here that we really want to take care of this problem so this doesn't happen again," he said.

BBC interviews Somali PM Hassan Abshir Farah
"We invite America to come to Somalia and work with us to defeat terrorist infiltration"
BBC interview with the UN's Randolph Kent
"All of this is having an horrendous impact on the people of Somalia"
BBC interview with US journalist Bill Gertz
"There's a real sense of a war footing here"
See also:

23 Nov 01 | Africa
US shuts down Somalia internet
08 Nov 01 | Africa
Somali company 'not terrorist'
15 Nov 01 | Africa
Somalia: The land of opportunity
26 Sep 01 | Africa
US targets Somali group
24 Sep 01 | Africa
UN pulls out of Somalia
21 Sep 01 | Africa
Somalia rejects Bin Laden link
17 Oct 01 | Africa
Starvation threat in Somalia
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