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WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is recognizing Somalia's government again after a two-decade gap, acknowledging the African country's progress against Islamist extremists.

Johnnie Carson, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, says recognition will take place Thursday when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton meets Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud in Washington.

The U.S. hadn't recognized a Somali government since clan-based warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. U. S. intervention failed two years later after militants shot down two Black Hawk helicopters and killed 18 American servicemen.

But Carson says the African Union, with U.S. financial support, made significant progress in recent years stabilizing Somalia and pushing al-Qaida and al-Shabab militants out of cities and towns.

He says recognition will help Somalia receive greater assistance from U.S. and international aid agencies.