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The US has appointed a special envoy for Somalia, which is struggling to restore order after 16 years without a functioning central government. John Yates, a career diplomat with experience in Africa, will head the Somalia unit from the US embassy in Kenya, because of the lack of security.

The US helped Ethiopia and government forces drive out an Islamist group from the capital, Mogadishu, last December. The US accused the Islamists of sheltering al-Qaeda operatives. The Union of Islamic Courts denied the charges.

In his first public comments since his appointment, he said this week’s attack which killed four Ugandan peacekeepers in the capital, Mogadishu may have been carried out by al-Qaeda. “Obviously the tactics that hit the Ugandan convoy and killed the peacekeepers were very much like the tactics that al-Qaeda and other terrorist movements have used in the past,” he said.

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