WASHINGTON — The State Department has authorized the evacuation of all U.S. diplomats and private American citizens in Somalia because of heavy fighting between government and rebel forces, it was announced today.
Deputy spokesman Richard Boucher said a task force is examining ways to carry out the evacuation to ensure the safety of the departing Americans.
There are 37 official Americans and fewer than 50 private Americans in Somalia, he said. Hundreds of Somalis are reported dead in four days of fighting.
In effect, the evacuation decision means the U.S. Embassy will be shut down.
Three weeks ago, the department ordered the evacuation of non-essential personnel and dependents from the embassy.
Boucher described the situation in Somalia as confused.
"It is impossible to say which side has the upper hand or which forces are in control of what location," Boucher said.