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27 July - The United Nations envoy to Somalia today welcomed the decision by the African Union (AU) to send an additional 2,000 peacekeepers to the troubled State, saying there was heightened concern across the continent over the consequences of continuing violence in the Horn of Africa country.

“There is definitely a heightened interest and concern by African countries and indications are that more troops will be required,” Augustine Mahiga, the Secretary-General's Special Representative and the head of the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), told UN Radio.

The decision to boost the African Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was made at the African Union (AU) summit that ended today in the Ugandan capital, Kampala. There are currently 6,100 AMISOM soldiers from Uganda and Burundi deployed in Somalia.

The summit was held in the wake of the 11 July twin bomb attacks in Kampala which killed about 70 people. Al Shabaab, a Somali-based militant group which is waging war against the country's Transitional Federal Government (TFG), claimed responsibility for the blasts, saying they were intended to avenge the alleged killing of Somalis by Ugandan troops serving in AMISOM.

“There was also increased international attention on this issue following the bombing in Kampala,” Mr. Mahiga said. He said deployment of the additional troops will be “expeditious.”

“In this deployment, the United Nations is involved in providing logistical support and other necessary requirements for putting the troops on the ground,” said Mr. Mahiga. “There are countries that are ready to lift the troops from the respective countries, mainly the United States and the European Union and Algeria. According to our possibilities in the UN, it could be within the next 30 to 40 days,” he added.

He said the African leaders had also discussed the need to continue improving maternal and child health in the continent as countries strive to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the eight poverty eradication and social development targets which countries have committed to try to achieve by 2015.

“There was a very far-reaching and rich discussion on maternal health, infant and child mortality and major commitments were made to revive and reaffirm previous commitments that had been made,” Mr. Mahiga said.