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British FM Makes Rare Visit to Somali Capital

By Mohamed Olad March 15, 2017

Flying unannounced into a still-dangerous city, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told Somalia's president Wednesday that Britain is committed to helping Somalia to boost security and avert a full-blown famine.

Johnson held a closed-door meeting with President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed at the heavily-guarded presidential palace in Mogadishu, where the two men discussed the ongoing drought, the threat of militant group al-Shabab and the London summit on Somalia, according to sources at the presidential office.

In a joint news conference after the meeting, the Somali president asked Britain to help bolster security.

"We are very hopeful that your country [Britain] and my country collaborate on security and the fight against al-Shabab, which is one of the biggest factors responsible for the country's problems, including the drought," Mohamed said.

Johnson urged humanitarian agencies to deliver assistance to save lives as Somalia tries to cope with its worst drought since the one in 2011, which killed an estimated 260,000.

British assistance

His visit comes days after the British government said it will fund a $19.5 million program to help avert famine in Somalia over the coming months. The program is aimed at getting food and water to more than 450,000 people.

Some 6.2 million Somalis are considered to be food insecure.

"You have been telling us little bit about the natural resources of Somalia and the potential of Somalia, and it shame that you are facing such problems particularly the drought and the risk of starvation," Johnson said. "I think we are moving fast to try and tackle that."

Suicide bombings and other attacks by al-Shabab militants have made Mogadishu one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Several high-profile politicans have visited the city in recent years but only under tight security.

Johnson's visit Wednesday was no different. He traveled in a fleet of armored vehicles from heavily fortified Mogadishu airport. Nearly 100 soldiers were deployed along the the busy Maka-al-Mukarama Road, where a blast near a hotel killed five people on Monday.

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