* AU troops in Somalia urgently need military aid
* UN's Ban to hold high-level meeting on Somalia Sept. 23
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The world urgently needs to boost military support for Somalia's government and African Union forces deployed in the virtually lawless Horn of Africa nation, the new U.N. envoy to Somalia said on Thursday.
"While the crisis in Somalia persists, positive opportunities still exist in both the political and security sectors to move the peace process forward," U.N. special envoy Augustine Mahiga told the Security Council.
"Scaled-up assistance from the international community is needed to make a difference," he told the 15-nation panel.
Islamist Al Shabaab insurgents stepped up their fight to topple Somalia's Western-backed administration last month.
Last week, suicide bombers killed two African Union peacekeepers and a number of civilians at Mogadishu's airport in the latest attack on the Somali capital by the al Qaeda-linked rebels.[ID:nLDE6880YX]
Mahiga said the AU would soon ask the Security Council to authorize increasing the number of its AMISOM peacekeepers in Mogadishu and other "strategic locations" in Somalia.
He said AU and the East African organization IGAD agreed to deploy 2,000 more troops in Mogadishu, which would enable AMISOM to reach its full mandated strength of 8,000.
In his latest report on Somalia to the Security Council, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged U.N. member states "to provide urgent military and financial support and other resources" to the Somali government.
Mahiga also called on the Somali government "to reach out more to opposition groups, expand the political process and focus on delivering basic services to the people."
Kismayo, one of Somalia's biggest cities, has become "the entry point for foreign fighters, war materiel for the insurgents and a scene of criminal activities," Mahiga said.
"There is a need for increased maritime and aviation security to deter these materiel from being used against AMISOM and the (government)," the Tanzanian diplomat added.
AMISOM troops, he said, needed the means to "identify, track, deter or respond to insurgents' attacks in an urban setting." He added that AMISOM was "critically short" of the means to prevent civilian casualties and lacked adequate "surveillance and operational intelligence systems."
Ban has organized a high-level meeting on Somalia on Sept. 23 on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly's annual gathering of world leaders.
Somalia has been plagued by anarchy since warlords ousted military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. Pirates are active in its coastal waters and have driven up shipping costs in the Gulf of Aden.
There are at least 300,000 people in Mogadishu who are displaced and struggling to survive, according to the U.N.
Al Shabaab has waged a three-year insurgency against the fragile transitional government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and they now control much of Mogadishu and huge tracts of southern and central Somalia. (Editing by Vicki Allen)
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