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U.S. Denies Direct Military Aid to Somalia's Government

U.S. Denies Direct Military Aid to Somalia's Government

A top U.S. State Department official is denying a report in the New York Times that the United States is supplying direct military aid to Somalia's embattled Transitional Federal Government.

In a special briefing with reporters Friday, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said the U.S. has no military advisors or troops on the ground in Somalia. He also said the United States is committed to the peace process in Somalia.

Carson specifically mentioned a March 5 New York Times report that said the U.S was providing surveillance aircraft to the Somali government. An unnamed U.S. government source is quoted in the article as saying the U.S. could possibly carry out airstrikes in the near future .

Carson said that U.S support for the Somali government is limited to an advisory role and that the U.S had no desire to "Americanize" the Somalia conflict.

Carson also said the U.S. has never received formal or informal requests to provide air strikes or other direct support in the conflict underway right now in the Somali capital, Mogadishu.

Islamic extremist insurgent groups - Hizbul Islam and its former ally al-Shabab are trying to overthrow the Somali government and set up an Islamic state.

The alliance between the two Islamist groups collapsed last year, but the Somali government remains weak and controls only small portions of the capital.

AU peacekeepers help it maintain control of key sites, including the airport, seaport, and the presidential palace. The Islamists control much of southern and central Somalia after a three-year insurgency.