U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison flew into war-ravaged Somalia Tuesday for an unannounced stay inside the fortified compound of the Mogadishu airport, the first visit by a member of Congress since the Obama administration recognized the new government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud.
The Minneapolis DFLer, whose district includes 32,000 people of Somali descent, described it as a humanitarian trip to discuss refugee problems and U.S. money transfers, many of them from relatives in Minnesota.
For Ellison the trip continued a growing legacy of visits to global trouble spots, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Egypt and the Congo.  In 2009, he and then-Sen. John Kerry were among the first U.S. government officials in more than three years to enter the Gaza strip, where Ellison was filmed by Arab television stations carrying boxes of aid.
He followed up the next day with a trip to Israeli towns that had suffered rocket attacks from Gaza.
More on Ellison's Africa trip (and Betty McCollum's) in tomorrow's Star Tribune.