Al-Shebab Fighter
Al-Shebab FighterReuters

The UN Security Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to authorize an increase in the African Union (AU) peacekeeping force in Somalia from 12,000 to about 17,700.

The council decision included increasing the peacekeepers areas of operation in an effort to intensify pressure on al-Shabab terrorists who recently joined al-Qaeda.

As part of its strategy to weaken al-Shabab, the council also ordered a ban on the export and import of charcoal from Somalia, calling the fuel "a significant revenue source" for the militant group.

"This is an important resolution, an important building block toward tomorrow's conference," Britain's UN Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said, referring to a meeting of senior representatives from more than 40 governments and international organizations on Somalia set to convene in London on Thursday.

He said the British-sponsored resolution gives the AU force, known as AMISOM, the troops and resources necessary to capitalize on the gains it made in pushing al-Shabab fighters out of the capital, Mogadishu.

The resolution authorizes a troop ceiling of 17,731 and expands AMISOM's operations to the Juba area in the south and Baidoa – a major base for al-Shabab in south-central Somalia.

It also increases the UN logistics package for AMISOM, including funds for nine utility helicopters and three attack helicopters.

The council also strengthened AMISOM's mandate, authorizing the force "to take all necessary measures as appropriate ... to reduce the threat posed by al-Shabab.”

US, European, and Israeli intelligence agencies have been tracking growing ties between local terror groups and criminal organizations in West Africa with Al-Qaeda and other multi-national terror groups.

Speaking about he wider problem of converging terrorism and crime in Africa ahead of Wednesday's vote, Israel's UN envoy Ron Prosor told the Security Council on Wednesday that Hizbullah had established a "power base" there.

“Israel is particularly concerned over Hizbullah's use of the area [West Africa] as a base of terror operations. Criminal initiatives bolster Hizbullah's efforts to create sleeper-cells in the area,” Ron Prosor told the Council.

“The world can't stand idly by – this endangers more than just Africa but innocent lives the world over, as we have seen in New Delhi, Tbilisi and Bangkok," he added.

Prosor told the Security Council that “Israel could play a key role in the global fight against the infiltration of crime-backed terror activity into Western Africa."

He also offered Israeli assistance in forming an "international intelligence agency" dedicated to foiling terror attacks "worldwide."