Mogadishu, May 15 (IANS) The African Union Transition Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) has said that it has stepped up preparations for the withdrawal of 2,000 soldiers by June 30 from Somalia.
Mohammed El-Amine Souef, special representative of the Chairperson of the AU Commission for Somalia and head of ATMIS, said on Sunday that a joint technical committee with members drawn from appropriate stakeholders, including the Somali government, the United Nations Support Office in Somalia, and ATMIS, have identified and agreed on the military bases to be handed over from ATMIS to the Somali Security Forces (SSF) or to be collapsed.
Souef, who was on an official visit to ATMIS Sector 5 headquarters in Jowhar, said while ATMIS reduces the number of soldiers on the ground, the SSF will increase its numbers to take over the areas that ATMIS will hand over, Xinhua news agency reported.
"The drawdown is in compliance with UN Security Council Resolutions 2628 and 2670 which mandates ATMIS to draw down 2000 soldiers by the end of June and hand over security in agreed areas to Somali Security Forces," ATMIS said in a statement issued in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.
ATMIS has been conducting both joint targeted and routine operations to degrade the terror group al-Shabaab, which is engaging the government forces in near-daily attacks. The AU mission also provides security to enable humanitarian actors to deliver much-needed food and emergency relief items to communities in need and remote areas.
Marius Ngendabanka, ATMIS acting force commander, said an operations order has already been released, and the joint technical committee team is on schedule to meet the June 30 deadline.
He emphasised that the drawdown of 2,000 ATMIS soldiers will not impact security for key government installations and major population centres if the SSF takes over.
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