MOGADISHU, Somalia — A U.S. congressman visited Somalia’s capital on Tuesday, the first visit in years by a member of Congress to what until recently was considered one of the world’s most dangerous cities.
Keith Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, said his visit to Mogadishu fulfills a request from his constituents with ties to Somalia. Minnesota has one of the largest populations of Somali-Americans in the U.S.
Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress, noted that the U.S. government recently recognized the Somali government for the first time since the country fell into anarchy in 1991. President Barack Obama’s administration formally recognized the Somali government on Jan. 17.
“I told my constituency I would come here and work for the United States and Somalia relationship, and I am doing that in today’s visit,” Ellison told a news conference in Mogadishu.
Ellison was greeted by Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. The president said that Ellison’s visit was a big day for Somalia.
Mogadishu has experienced about 18 months of relative peace, after the August 2011 ouster of the Islamic extremists of al-Shabab from the capital by African Union forces.
Ellison said his meetings with Somali officials would focus on financial remittances most often sent by Somalis in the U.S. back to family members in Somalia. Such remittances have become harder to make over fears that people sending money could be accused of aiding a terrorist organization such as al-Shabab.