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US sends handful of military advisers to Somalia

Fewer than five US troops will advise African and Somali forces as they try to take control from Al Qaeda and Al Shabab-affiliated militants. 

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A Somali policeman searches people for explosives and other weapons at a road junction in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia in November 2013.

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

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The U.S. military has established a unit of fewer than five troops in Mogadishu to advise African and Somali forces as they try to take control of Somalia from the Al Qaeda-affiliated Al Shabab militant group, a spokesman said on Friday.

Army Colonel Tom Davis, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command, said U.S. forces began establishing the Mogadishu Coordinating Cell in October and it became fully operational in late December.

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The unit's establishment marks the first time U.S. troops have been deployed to Somalia since 1994, when the last American forces withdrew from the country several months after the so-called "Black Hawk Down" incident in which Somali militants shot down two helicopters and killed 18 U.S. troops.

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"The U.S. has established a military coordination cell in Somalia to provide planning and advisory support to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Somali security forces to increase their capabilities and promote peace and security throughout Somalia and the region," Davis said in a statement.

A U.S. military official said the size of the coordinating cell was fewer than five U.S. military personnel.