By Samuel Burke, CNN
Battles with Islamist militants in Mali and Algeria this week underscore the major challenge al Qaeda poses in North Africa.
But in one northern African country, Islamic fighters are on the run.
This week Somalia’s recently elected president met U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton State who hailed that country's major success in beating back al Qaeda's East Africa affiliate al-Shabab.
Clinton bestowed U.S. recognition on the country for the first time in 20 years.
For nearly two decades Somalia was the poster child for a failed state and a terrorist haven.
Like Mali right now, Somalia was a lawless state where pirates, warlords and militants ruled the roost. But with the support of an African military coalition, backed by the United States, Somalia has been able to turn the tide.
The President of Somalia, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Wednesday that al-Shabaab is a subsiding threat now on the run.
President Mohamud knows first hand how violent the group can be, he survived an assassination attempt from the group in the days leading to his inauguration.
“Someone has to stand up and I'm very glad to be that someone today. And I do have the belief that we can defend [against] them and we've proved that so far.”
He believes al-Shabaab is incapable of defeating Somalia’s increased military power.
“This is good news for us, that we are facing the decline of the militants. But we are very sorry that many other African brothers and sisters are facing the same challenge we faced.”
Even though al-Shabaab is on the run Somalia, President Mohamud told Amanpour he is concerned about the various al Qaeda groups in North Africa assisting al-Shabaab again.
“I do believe that there is a network that links all of them,” he said, adding that only when al-Shabaab was weakened in Somalia did extremists really emerge in Mali.
After the 1993 “Black Hawk Down” attack drove out the U.S. and U.N. forces, this week’s recognition from the U.S. is a “bold step” toward normalizing Somalia in the world community, President Mohamud said. He believes it will open the doors of many international and financial institutions, which could help Somalia turn the corner economically.
“There's no one single country in the world who went from a collapsed state and came back on its own. Every country was supported by the internationals,” he said, adding that Somalia will still need the continued support of the international community to avoid a replay of its two decades as a collapsed state.
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