MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) -- Hundreds of Somali soldiers trained with U.S. tax dollars have deserted because they are not being paid their $100 monthly wage, and some have even joined the al-Qaida-linked militants they are supposed to be fighting, The Associated Press has learned.
The desertions raise fears that a new U.S.-backed effort beginning next month to build up Somalia's army may only increase the ranks of the insurgency.
Somalia's besieged U.N.-backed government holds only a few blocks of the Somali capital, Mogadishu, while Islamic insurgents control the rest of the city and most of the country. That turmoil -- and the lawless East African nation's proximity to Yemen, where al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula is based -- has fed fears that Somalia could be used to launch attacks on the West.
In an effort to rebuild the tattered Somali military, the United States helped fund a training program for nearly 1,000 soldiers in neighboring Djibouti last year, Western diplomats told the AP. The French-trained troops were supposed to earn $100 a month, but about half of them deserted because they were not paid, Somali army Col. Ahmed Aden Dhayow said.
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