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Somalia's future debated at Turkey conference

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UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has said international forces cannot solve Somalia's problems in the long term and that the fragile country needs its own strong security institutions.

Ban spoke on Friday at a conference in Istanbul which aims to support Somalia in a transition process that calls for a new constitution and parliament, and the election of a president, by August 20.

In the face of terrorism, piracy and drought, Somalia needs solidarity ... Partners have to step up and do their part," the secretary general said.

African Union troops have helped Somalia's transitional government in its fight against anti-government group al-Shabab.

While gains have been made, Ban said the international community must help Somalia build its own security apparatus, establish the rule of law and shed a culture of impunity.

Sharif Ahmed, the Somali president, said his country does not have a national army and needs military training.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since the 1991 removal of president Siad Barre.

Al-Shabab defeat

The conference in Turkey took place as al-Shabab confirmed the fall of the southern town of Afmadow, one of their last remaining bases, to African Union and Somali forces.

"The Kenyan and Somali troops have now entered Afmadow. No fighting took place inside the town," Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, spokesman for al-Shabab's military operation, told Reuters on Thursday.

"First we fought fiercely outside the town and then our fighters left the town as part of our tactics. However, we shall not stop fighting," he said.

Mohamud Farah, the spokesman for Somali government forces in the Juba region, painted a similar picture of how the town fell, seven months after Kenya sent troops into the country to battle al-Shabab.

"There were no casualties. Al-Shabab fled and no fighting took place. We are going to consolidate security for now," Farah told Reuters.

The Kenyan incursion is part of a three-pronged offensive against al-Shabab, which is also battling Ethiopian troops in central Somalia and an African Union force near the capital, Mogadishu.

Seizing Afmadow is a crucial step in the drive towards the southern port city of Kismayu, the hub of al-Shabab operations, about 120km away.


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