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Volume 629: debated on Tuesday 17 October 2017

I should like to begin by expressing strong condolences on behalf of the British Government, and indeed the whole House, following the horrifying situation in Mogadishu—this was one of the largest bombs ever. Almost 300 people were killed and 500 were injured. As part of the United Kingdom’s response to that terrorist incident, we have provided support through the counter-terrorist police and the joint operations centre. More broadly, through the London Somalia conference, we are supporting the security infrastructure of the Somali state.

I join the Minister in offering heartfelt sympathy and prayers to President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo and his people at this dreadful time. This was the most lethal bomb ever let off in Africa, yet it has received minimal coverage in the west. What more can we do to redouble not only security input but our development efforts, so that we can give the Somali people hope for the future and enable them to triumph over this evil?

The UK Government are doing three things. First, we are providing £170 million in drought response to Somalia, where people are dying of starvation. Secondly, through the London Somalia conference, we have given new energy to the international community, and a focus on economic development and security. The most important thing we need to do at the moment, however, is to focus on the relationships between Mogadishu and the federal member states, where tensions are rising daily.

18. Like the Minister and the hon. Member for North West Norfolk (Sir Henry Bellingham), I offer my condolences to the people of Mogadishu following Saturday’s terrible incident. Al-Shabaab, which has claimed responsibility for the attack, has recruited fighters from this country in the shape of Thomas Evans and Samantha Lewthwaite, who were killed in 2015. What guarantee can the Minister give that people trained by terrorist groups such as al-Shabaab are not allowed back into the country, and that the authorities will come down on them if they do come back? (901189)

I want to reinforce how horrifying the attack was and emphasise the threat that al-Shabaab poses to Somalia and the broader regions, and to the United Kingdom. I also reiterate our absolute abhorrence of and determination to clamp down on any British citizen who involves themselves with a group of such extreme horror.

On behalf of the Labour party, I associate myself with the comments about the despicable act by al-Shabaab in Mogadishu. Together with our European partners, we must step up our efforts to destroy that organisation and to help Somalia to achieve lasting peace and stability. To that end, will the Minister assure the House that, whatever the terms of our exit from the European Union, our joint efforts with the EU in Somalia will carry on in exactly the same way?

We remain very committed to working not only with the European Union but, critically, with the African Union, whose troops have taken a lot of pain and sacrificed their lives to keep Somalia together. The US, the EU and the African Union need to work together until the Somali security forces can build themselves up to ensure that the progress that we have made over the past 10 years is guaranteed for the future.