updated 7/24/2007 1:36:09 PM ET 2007-07-24T17:36:09

Kenya will partially lift a ban on flights to and from Somalia, officials said Tuesday. The ban had gone into effect nine months ago after the United States said Somali extremists were plotting suicide attacks.

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Some restrictions will be lifted Aug. 1 to "allow for limited movement of aircraft between the two countries," said Chris Kuto, director of Kenya Civil Aviation Authority.

Kenya banned flights in November after the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi said Somali extremists were threatening suicide attacks in Kenya and Ethiopia. The radical Islamic group in control of Somalia at the time was driven out in December, but insurgents linked to the group have launched regular, deadly attacks.

Roadside bombs, attacks on government installations, assassination attempts and gunbattles have become common, and civilians are often caught in the crossfire. The insurgents want Somalia to become an Islamic state.

"Kenya had security issue with the flights coming from Somalia and that is why the restriction was imposed in the first place," said Mutia Mwandikwa, spokesman for KCAA. He said new precautions such as forcing pilots to make a stopover in Wajir, Kenya, for inspection will help safeguard all flights.

"There is a need to allow Somalis to have a connection with the rest of the world and we are just trying to assist them do that," Mwandikwa said.

Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned against one another, defending clan fiefdoms. The government was formed in 2004 with the help of the U.N., but has struggled to assert its authority.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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