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ENVOY QUIETLY LEAVES, ENDING U.S. PRESENCE IN SOMALIA

The official American presence in Somalia ended when envoy Daniel Simpson left Mogadishu and flew to Kenya Thursday night, a U.S. Embassy spokesman in Kenya said Friday.

Simpson was the last U.S. official to leave the U.S. liaison office inside the heavily guarded U.N. compound in the lawless Somali capital.The last 55 Marine guards flew out to the Kenyan port of Mombasa Thursday.

The embassy spokesman in Nairobi said Simpson was too tired to speak to reporters after leaving Mogadishu with plainclothes security officers.

The quiet departure contrasted with the high profile pullout of the last U.S. troops serving with U.N. peacekeeping forces in March and with their landing on Mogadishu's beaches in December 1992.

U.N. officials said Washington did not want public attention drawn to its officials leaving Somalia largely in chaos under clan warlords while at the same time the United States was preparing for an invasion of Haiti to oust military leaders.

The departure was a grim signal to the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia and aid workers who are retreating from all outlying garrisons, abandoning areas of the Horn of Africa country to the gunmen who destroyed it in the first place.

The U.N. Operation in Somalia is cutting its 18,800-strong Asian and African army to 15,000 - the minimum force that can cover itself if the mission needs to evacuate completely.