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UN envoy calls for thousands more troops to battle Somali militants

By the CNN Wire Staff
An African Union tank fighting Islamists in Mogadishu, June 2010: The U.N. says additional peacekeeping troops are required.
An African Union tank fighting Islamists in Mogadishu, June 2010: The U.N. says additional peacekeeping troops are required.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The threat level is going up, a U.N. envoy says
  • Additional troops will help combat a rising threat by Islamist rebels
RELATED TOPICS
  • Somalia
  • Mogadishu
  • African Union

(CNN) -- Somalia may need to triple its peacekeeping troops to 20,000 in the coming months to combat a surging threat by militants, a U.N. official said.

"The threat level in Mogadishu and in southern-central Somalia has actually increased," Augustine Mahiga told the U.N. Security Council on Thursday.

Mahiga said he is concerned about the security in the country and its impact in the region.

"A scaled up assistance from the international community is needed to make a difference," said Mahiga, the special envoy to Somalia.

The additional troops, he said, will help fight Islamist rebels who have been battling peacekeeping troops and government forces.

The African Union Mission in Somalia has been helping government forces fight al Shabab rebels in the country.

African Union peacekeepers are mostly from Uganda and Burundi. The troop currently has about 6,000 troops -- 2,000 short of its authorized limit, Mahiga said.

The envoy said plans are under way to submit a request for more troops in Somalia to the United Nations Security Council.

Al Shabab has claimed responsibility for July suicide attacks in Uganda that left more than 70 people dead.

The United States considers the group, which is al Qaeda's proxy in the country, a terrorist organization.

Al-Shabaab is waging a war against Somalia's government in an effort to implement a stricter form of Islamic law, or sharia. Somalia has not had a stable government since 1991, and fighting between the rebels and government troops has escalated the humanitarian crisis in the famine-ravaged country.