ADDIS ABABA The African Union has backed a call to boost by about a third the number of troops in an African peacekeeping force in Somalia to reinforce a campaign against Islamist militants there who attacked a Nairobi shopping mall last month.
The union's Peace and Security Council said 6,235 soldiers and police should be added to the AMISOM peacekeeping force to take its total strength to 23,966 uniformed personnel for a limited period of 18 to 24 months.
The council endorsed the recommendations of a review of the force this week and announced its decision on Friday. The decision needs the approval of the U.N. Security Council.
AMISOM is made up of troops mainly from Kenya, Uganda and Burundi. Ethiopia has also sent in soldiers, but they are not under AMISOM command.
The attack on the Westgate shopping complex in Nairobi, in which at least 67 people died, highlighted the reach of Somalia's al Shabaab Islamist group, which claimed responsibility.
The AU council "stresses the need for renewed efforts to degrade the capabilities of al Shabaab, in view of the continued threat it poses both within Somalia and in the region," it said in a statement.
This week, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn told Reuters that Western nations and others should do more to help both the Somali government and AMISOM crush al Shabaab, although he said he did not see the need for more troops.
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Matthew Tostevin)