As world leaders gathered in London Thursday to discuss solutions to Somalia’s problem reining in local al-Qaeda affiliate al-Shabab, the country’s prime minister, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, said he would continue to support targeted international airstrikes if civilians were protected.
"For two decades Somalia has been torn apart by famine, bloodshed and some of the worst poverty on earth," British Prime Minister David Cameron said. "If the rest of us just sit back and look on, we will pay a price for doing so," he added.
Western nations used the conference as an opportunity to pledge support for Somalia’s population, still ailing from the 2011 famine that has left 2.3 million dependent on food aid. Britain promised $80 million in aid for Somali refugees and the U.S. offered $64 million in humanitarian assistance overall to Horn of Africa countries.
Although the attending nations made generous pledges of new funding, including additional training for soldiers and coast guards, increased cooperation over terrorism and renewed efforts to find those who finance and profit from piracy, the biggest announcement came from Ali, who cleared the way for “targeted” airstrikes.
"… Targeted Al-Shabab airstrikes are a welcome opportunity," Ali said Thursday. "But we have to make sure that the safety and the property and the lives of the Somali people are protected. This is the utmost priority for us."
While Ali also said that he had not previously discussed his decision with European governments, U.K. newspaper the Guardian reported just days ago that airstrikes and raids by Britain’s Royal Marines have become increasingly prominent at meetings of the country’s National Security Council.
Fifty countries and organizations were represented at the high-level conference, including U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and representatives from the European Union, the African Union, the Arab League and the head of the Somaliland region. Turkey announced its plans to host a follow-up summit on Somalia's plight in June.
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(Photo: PETER MACDIARMID/AFP/Getty Images)