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By Guled Mohamed
Mogadishu - An African Union delegation assessed security in Mogadishu and met with officials of the interim Somali government ahead of a proposed deployment of a peacekeeping force, officials said on Sunday.
African leaders meeting in Addis Ababa last week scrambled to find thousands more African Union troops for a peacekeeping force in Somalia fearing failure to deploy in time could plunge the Horn of Africa country back into anarchy.
With only 4 000 troops pledged out of the required 8 000, leaders urged more countries to raise more troops.
On Sunday, an AU team comprising of military experts visited several installations in the anarchic city where the would-be deployed troops are expected to be based.
"The African Union officials came to look at where the troops will stay," Deputy Defence Minister Salad Ali Jelle said after taking the team around Mogadishu.
The team's visit to Mogadishu, came at a time when unrest has gripped the city of approximately 10 million which has lacked central rule since the 1991 ouster of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
"They visited the airport, port and seaport. They seemed content with our preparations," Jelle said, predicting deployment would take place very soon after the visit.
"We hope 4,000 troops will be deployed. The troops are expected to come from Uganda, Ghana, Nigeria and other countries including even Burundi."
To underscore the challenges to be faced by the AU troops, a senior policeman was shot dead in the streets on Saturday, in the latest spate of attacks the government says is caused by remnants of the defeated Somali Islamic Courts Council (SICC).
Supported by Ethiopian soldiers and weapons, the government drove out the Islamists who had held the capital Mogadishu and other parts of southern Somalia for six months in a two-week war in December and the New Year period.
The United Nations Security Council urged the AU on Friday to quickly send troops to Somalia to allow Ethiopia to withdraw its forces and the government to lift its emergency security measures.
The city has suffered a spate of attacks on Ethiopian and government positions, which some blame on remnants of the Islamists, who had vowed to carry out a guerrilla war.