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US to recognize Somali government after 20 year hiatus

The US has announced that it will recognize a Somali government for the first time in two decades, citing the country's progress against Islamist extremists. The US has not recognized a Somali government since 1991.

The United States will on Thursday recognize the first Somali government in two decades, introducing a significant shift in relations since the 1993 attack on US helicopters in the capital Mogadishu.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will announce the shift during a meeting with visiting Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson told reporters.

"The visit here this week of the new Somalian president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, represents a significant change in the security and political situation on the ground in Somalia and our relationship with that country," Carson told reporters.

A new Somali administration took office last year, ending eight years of a transitional government. Somalia did not have an effective central government since 1991, after warlord's toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

In 1993, after a failed US intervention, Somali militants shot down two American Black Hawk helicopters and dragged US soldier's bodies through the streets of the capital, Mogadishu. Eighteen Americans died, and 80 were wounded.

In recent months, African Union forces, government troops and Ethiopian soldiers, were able to subdue Islamist al-Shabab insurgents from several key towns.

"Significant progress has been made in stabilizing the country and in helping to break-up and defeat al-Shabab. Much more needs to be done but we think enormous progress has been made," he added.

He added this new recognition will help Somalia receive more US assistance and aid from international agencies.

hc/msh (Reuters, AFP)