Africa

500th Somali Soldier Graduates From British Army Infantry Course

There are plans to train five more companies of around 600 troops in 2021.

The British Army has trained its 500th Somali soldier in infantry skills.

The latest batch of 113 troops marked the end of their training with a ceremony in Baidoa, 150 miles north-west from the capital Mogadishu, on 31 December, the Ministry of Defence (MOD) announced.

The training is designed to prepare the officers and soldiers from the Somali National Army (SNA) to conduct effective security operations, countering the threat from the Al-Shabaab group and other jihadist and criminal organisations. 

British troops from 2nd Battalion, Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment, carried out the eight-week Company Collective Training Course.

The 26-strong British training team taught students skills including marksmanship, patrolling, medical aid and techniques to counter improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

The cohort was the fifth Somali company trained by Britain since the course was rolled out in the country in September 2019.

Minister for the Armed Forces James Heappey said: "This milestone shows Britain’s ongoing commitment to help Somalia provide security and stability for its people, while combating terrorist groups that threaten the UK’s interests at home and abroad.

"The United Kingdom and our Armed Forces will continue to support Somalia, with plans to double the number of troops trained under this scheme in 2021."

Ben Fender, British Ambassador to Somalia, said "we expect to train a new company around every eight weeks... and to complete our training of 8 Brigade by the end of 2021".

Soldiers and officers from 8 Brigade, Somalia National Army marching past a UK instructor during their graduation ceremony in Baidoa, Somalia (Picture: MOD).

The work to help the Somalia National Army restore security and stability in the region is part of Operation Tangham, the codename given to the UK Armed Forces' efforts in tackling Islamic extremists in Somalia.

On completion of the course, soldiers were provided with uniforms and equipment.

The UK has also provided the SNA with military vehicles to support security operations and a new barracks in Baidoa, the capital of South-West State in Somalia, that can accommodate 450 troops.

There are plans to train five more companies, comprising of about 600 troops, in 2021, the MOD said.

It follows an announcement in September 2020 that the British Army had trained the first Brigade Headquarters for a generation in Somalia.

Somali soldiers practicing marksmanship on the firing ranges during the Company Collective Training course (Picture: MOD).

The graduation ceremony was attended by Brigadier General Mohammed Sheik Irow, Commander of SNA 60 Sector, and Lieutenant Colonel Andy Wareing.

Following a parade and speeches, the two officers inspected the graduating soldiers and presented individual awards.

The UK Minister for Africa, James Duddridge MP, recently added to Britain’s commitment to Somalia with a new support package worth £21.8m.

It included £1.6m to counter the threat from roadside bombs, and a further £3.37m for the Somali Security Forces engaged in joint operations with the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).

More than 1,750 officers and soldiers have attended various military courses at the British-funded training centre in Baidoa.

Cover image: Soldiers and officers from 8 Brigade, Somalia National Army, at their graduation ceremony in Baidoa, Somalia (Picture: MOD).