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Germany's Gabriel makes surprise visit to Somalia

Germany's foreign minister has warned of a looming humanitarian catastrophe on a trip to Somalia. Gabriel's visit, the first by a German foreign minister, comes ahead of a international security conference on Somalia.

Watch video 01:29

German FM visits Somalia

German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Monday pledged to double aid to drought-hit Somalia, where more than 6 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Gabriel arrived in the capital, Mogadishu, under heavy security on an unannounced visit, the first ever by a German foreign minister to the Horn of Africa country.

Echoing warnings from the United Nations, Gabriel said several years of drought was causing a "humanitarian catastrophe" that required the international community to step up its support.

Germany has already pledged 70 million euros ($76 million) in assistance to Somalia. "We are ready to at least double that," Gabriel said during a meeting with Somali Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire.

Watch video 07:37

Somalia: Living with drought

'No longer a failed state'

The visit comes ahead of a May 11 international conference in London to discuss security, economic development and political reform in Somalia.

Known often for its record of civil war, starvation, piracy and terrorism, Somalia has long been the poster child of a "failed state."  But since 2012 the country has slowly begun to emerge from its darkest days, establishing a fragile internationally backed government.

Gabriel said the international community should no longer view Somalia as a failed state, "but as a state which laboriously struggles to recreate a reliable state structure" enabling it to "guarantee security."

Gabriel also said Somalia's security forces would need to be trained and improved.

Außenminister Gabriel besucht Somalia (picture alliance/dpa/M.Gambarini)

Gabriel met with German police, who are helping rebuild Somalia's police force.

Insurgency challenge

Somalia's government faces an ongoing insurgency by the radical Islamist terror group al-Shabab, which controls larges swaths of territory and regularly carries out attacks. 

Some 20,000 African Union peacekeeping troops are in the country supporting the Somalia government against al-Shabab and helping secure the delivery of humanitarian aid. The European Union provides much of the funding to the African Union mission.

On Monday, Gabriel also plans to meet with internally displaced persons and  former al-Shabaab fighters. Germany provides financial support to two centers run by the International Organization for Migration to reintegrate former al-Shabaab fighters. 

According to the UN, more than 30 million people are in need of food assistance in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia due to conflict and drought. UN agencies have warned that there is currently enough money to provide assistance to only 8.4 million of them.

cw/tj (AFP, dpa)

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