Washington: President Barack Obama is set to name the first American ambassador to Somalia since the start of the brutal civil war more than 20 years ago, a top diplomat said Tuesday.
"As a reflection both of our deepening relationship with the country and of our faith that better times are ahead, the president will propose the first US ambassador to Somalia in more than two decades," Undersecretary Wendy Sherman told a US think tank.
But she would only say that the announcement from Obama, currently on a trip to Europe, was expected "soon" and confirmed that, initially, the new ambassador would be based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Although the US never formally severed ties, the embassy in Mogadishu was closed in 1991 as Somalia descended into chaos amid a bloody power struggle among brutal warlords.
Two years later in 1993 two Blackhawk helicopters were shot down and 18 Americans were killed in a disastrous operation which became the subject of a best-selling book and film "Blackhawk Down."
US Army Rangers and special forces had set out to capture two deputies of warlord Mohamed Farrah Aidid, but two Blackhawk helicopters were downed by rocket-propelled grenades.
Efforts to recover the crews and aircraft turned into an hours-long urban battle with insurgents, amid grisly scenes of the bodies of the captured Americans being dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.
The Somali government that took power in August 2012 was the first to be given global recognition since the collapse of the hardline regime in 1991, and billions of dollars in foreign aid have since poured in to help rebuild the Horn of Africa country.
But while the new Somali government controls the capital Mogadishu, large swathes of rural areas are controlled by the al-Shebab militants, who have emerged as a threat to regional peace.