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US plans Somali airlift

MOMBASA (Agencies) - The United States prepared yesterday to launch an airlift to starving Somalis within 48 hours, to deliver 145,000 tons of food in 60 days.

As a US military team began laying the groundwork for the airlift, some aid agencies expressed concern that the operation could create security and distribution problems. The first planeload of food was expected to leave Mombasa tomorrow for Wajir in north- eastern Kenya. From Wajir, the food will be taken by lorry to nearly 400,000 people living in camps run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees along Kenya's border.

The US is to ship 13,000 tons of food to Somalia this month and 8,500 tons in the first week of September. Two planes arrived yesterday and the rest are expected in Mombasa this week. About 100 US troops will take part.

A quarter of Somali children under the age of five are believed to have died as a result of famine and civil strife. 'One-fourth of all children under five are estimated to have perished already,' said Peter Davies of Interaction, a relief coalition working in Somalia.