Obama approves sending US military aid to Somalia

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obamadetermined on Monday that Somalia may receive US militaryassistance, a step seen as a sign of improving relations with acountry grappling to contain militants linked to al-Qaida.

Obama issued a memo to Secretary of State John Kerry thatsaid Somalia is eligible for "defense articles and defenseservices" under U.S. arms export and foreign aid laws.

Security in the Somali capital of Mogadishu has improvedsince the Islamist group al-Shabaab fled the city after amilitary offensive in August 2011. Bombings and assassinationsare still frequent.

A senior Obama administration official said the aidauthorization reflects a move by the United States toward morenormal relations with Somalia.