Around 100 Burundian soldiers arrived in Somalia, as part of an African Union peace-keeping force trying to stabilise the war-torn country, an AU official said.

Brundi Peacekeapers

AU-Burundian

 Halkaan ka akhri

The tiny central African country has pledged to deploy a total of 1,700 soldiers to Somalia to join some 1,600 Ugandan soldiers based in the volatile capital Mogadishu.

“About 100 Burundian soldiers, part of the African peacekeeping mission in Somalia, have arrived in Mogadishu today,” said Captain Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the AU contingent.

“I believe every boot on the ground will change the situation and we hope other countries contributing soldiers will take the same path as Burundi and will deploy their forces soon,” he told AFP.

The troops arrived hours after overnight fighting between Ethiopia-backed Somali government troops and insurgents left four people dead in the capital.

In Bujumbura, Burundian army spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza said another group of the same size would arrive in Mogadishu on Monday.

“This team is tasked with preparing the ground for the arrival of the first Burundian battalion consisting of 800 men, which will be deployed in Somalia with its command within two weeks,” he told AFP.

“The second Burundian battalion, also of 800 men, will be deployed in January 2008 if the countries supporting us honour their commitments,” he added.

The African Union plans to deploy up to 8,000 peacekeepers to the Horn of African nation, torn apart by internecine war for the past 16 years.

West African military powerhouse Nigeria is also to send soldiers in the next two or three months.

The United Nations estimates that since February 600,000 civilians have been displaced and thousands of others killed since the Somali government, backed by Ethiopian troops, forced out Islamist forces in January.

But a senior Somali foreign ministry official Osman Mohamed Adam told AFP Sunday that the UN figures painted an exaggeratedly bleak picture of the situation in his country.

Ethiopian Prime Minster Meles Zenawi on Thursday also said the United Nations was exaggerating the security and humanitarian emergency in Somalia.

Numerous bids to restore stability in Somalia since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991 have failed because of clan warfare and unrest.

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