The United Nations has said the war against al-Shabab in Somalia has "ground to a halt" and needs a surge of almost 4,400 more African Union troops to succeed.

The deputy secretary-general, Jan Eliasson, told the Security Council on Wednesday that an African Union contingent in Somalia needed boosting by 2,550 combat troops and 1,845 ground-support troops for the next 18 to 24 months.

Eliasson told the council that the current UN-endorsed AU force and the Somali military lacked "the capacity to push beyond areas already recovered" from al-Qaida linked group.

Without increased support, our present - and indeed past - investment in peace, and that of millions of Somalis, may be lost," he told the council.

The AU mission in Somalia is meant to pave the way for an eventual UN force. It is led by Ugandan officers, and also has large Kenya and Burundi contingents.

The Security Council is focused on the al-Shabab threat due to the September attack on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, by al-Shabab fighters in which at least 67 people were killed.

Source: AP