BUJUMBURA, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Burundi will send some 1,700 troops to Somalia as part of an African Union peacekeeping mission to stabilise the chaotic Horn of Africa nation, the army said on Sunday, adding that an advance team would leave in days.
Somalia’s interim government, whose forces ousted Islamists from Mogadishu and much of the south in December with help from Ethiopian troops, has called for the 8,000-strong AU force to be deployed as soon as possible.
Uganda is to send a 1,500-strong force in the next few days to Mogadishu, where frequent attacks underline the challenge facing the government in trying to tame a nation where anarchy has prevailed since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre’s 1991 ouster.
"Burundi will supply 1,700 troops and the first elements are expected to leave next week," said army spokesman Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza, adding that 80 extra army officers would also be sent.
"It is a response to the African Union request which asked African countries to supply troops to help Somalia find peace."
A 5,600-strong U.N. force was deployed in June 2004 in Burundi, which is emerging from more than a decade of civil war that killed 300,000 people.
Several hundred of the troops remain in the country, now operating under an AU mission to monitor a ceasefire agreement between the government and Burundi’s last rebel group.
The tiny central African nation has sent about 50 army and police officers to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region and a police spokesman said this week 20 police officers were ready to go to Ivory Coast as part of the U.N. mission there.
The AU mission in Somalia will take over from Ethiopian forces, who have come under attack in Mogadishu.