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Diplomat Frazer Details Surprise Trip to Somalia
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Diplomat Frazer Details Surprise Trip to Somalia

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Diplomat Frazer Details Surprise Trip to Somalia

Diplomat Frazer Details Surprise Trip to Somalia
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Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer talks about her unannounced weekend trip to Somalia. It was the first visit by a top U.S. official since the Black Hawk Down episode in 1993.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

Not since a 1993 battle on the streets of Mogadishu has a senior American official visited that country, Somalia. Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, made an unannounced visit to the Somalia city of Baidoa on Saturday.

She was supporting that country's transitional government. A cease-fire between government troops and Islamic fighters is providing relative calm we're told, although the government has postponed a planned reconciliation conference. Ambassador Frazer is back in Washington and joins us to talk more about her trip. Good morning.

Ms. JENDAYI FRAZER (Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, U.S. State Department): Good morning.

INSKEEP: Well, how do you find the situation in Somalia?

Ms. FRAZER: Well, I was in Baidoa, and it was quite quiet in Baidoa. I had an opportunity to meet with the leadership and civil society groups there, as well as the parliament. But everything was quiet on that front.

INSKEEP: Which raises the next question of the less stable parts of the country. Do you think that progress is being made towards stabilizing the situation in places like Mogadishu?

Ms. FRAZER: Yeah. Mogadishu is the place where there's violence and I think that much more progress needs to be made to stabilize it. I think the source of the violence is mainly started with insurgents associated with remnants of the Council of Islamic Courts and also include Hawiye clan militia.

And I think that for the first it's going to be difficult to bring them into a reconciliation process, but for the second, the clan, it's going to be essential that they're brought into a reconciliation and political dialogues so that the violence can come to an end.

INSKEEP: Why have the various troops in Mogadishu been unable to stop the violence? You've had African Union soldiers to some numbers anyway, you've had Ethiopian soldiers there, and things seem more violent than before they started moving in.

Ms. FRAZER: Well, they have become more violent when you had mortar attacks by these, again, remnants of the Council of Islamic Courts who were firing mortars from neighborhoods, civilian neighborhoods, trying to attack Ethiopian forces in positions, attacking the Traditional Federal Government, for instance, the presidential villa, attacking the deployment of (Unintelligible) peacekeepers. When the government forces and Ethiopian forces fire back into those neighborhoods, that has outraged, I think, the Hawiye clan from the communities in which these terrorists are attacking.

And so there's been a spiraling effect of violence, with one side killing civilians and the other side firing back and also killing civilians since these extremists are located in neighborhoods.

INSKEEP: And forgive me for asking, if I can get an answer in about 10 seconds: Is the United States any closer to avoiding Somalia being a sanctuary for terrorists?

Ms. FRAZER: Yes. I think that we're much closer to avoiding Somalia becoming a sanctuary. But I think that, you know, to be quite realistic, there are terrorists in many countries throughout Europe. And so it's going to be an ongoing effort. There's not going to be a moment in which we can declare victory that there are no terrorists in Somalia.

Somalia had become a safe haven. Now it has the Transitional Federal Government with not complete authority across the country or even within Mogadishu.

INSKEEP: Ambassador, thanks very much.

Ms. FRAZER: Thank you very much.

INSKEEP: Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer.

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