A chronology of important events and developments
July 1, 1960: Somalia gains independence. The country is created through the merger of the British Somaliland Protectorate and Italian Somaliland.
1963: Somalia breaks diplomatic relations with Britain, amid border dispute with Kenya.
1964: Fighting breaks out over border dispute with Ethiopia.
1967: Abdi Rashid Ali Shermarke beats Aden Abdullah Osman Daar in elections for president.
1969: Shermake is assassinated.
October 21, 1969: Major General Muhammad Siad Barre seizes presidency in a bloodless coup.
1970: Barre says that Somalia is a socialist state. He begins a process of nationalising the country's economy.
1974-75: Somalia is blighted by severe drought, causing widespread starvation.
1977: Somalia invades the Ethiopia's Ogaden region, which is home to hundreds of Somali people.
1978: Ethiopian forces, backed by Cuban troops, push Somali soldiers out of Ogaden.
Barre turns to the United States after expelling Soviet advisers from Somalia.
1981: Barre prevents Mijertyn and Isaq clan members from holding posts in government. He fills the vacant positions with people from the Marehan clan.
1988: Somalia reaches a peace accord with Ethiopia.
January 1991: Barre's government is forced from power, promoting factional fighting.
November 1991: A power struggle breaks out between rival clan regional commanders, Mohammed Farah Aideed and Ali Mahdi Mohammed.
Soon the government collapses and fighting breaks out between rival leaders. Thousands of civilians are killed in the violence, while thousands die of starvation because food aid cannot reach them due to the clashes.
Somali government soldiers have struggled to maintain order in the country [AFP]1991: Somaliland declares unilateral independence from Somalia.
February 1992: Rival commanders sign a UN-sponsored ceasefire but fail to agree on monitoring provisions.
The UN deploys 500 soldiers in Mogadishu as part of United Nations Operation in Somalia (Unosom) which is intended to observe the ceasefire. Fighting continues to escalate.
December: A contingent of US marines lands near Mogadishu, under a UN peacekeeping mandate to assist in the delivery of humanitarian aid. The soldiers are also tasked with restoring order. 1993: US forces target powerful Somali leader Muhammad Farah Aidid. About 2,000 people are killed in clashes between the US marines and Aidid's forces, many of them civilians.
Seventeen US army rangers are killed when their helicopters are shot down in Mogadishu, the Somali capital.
March 1994: The US ends its mission in Somalia.
March 1995: UN peacekeepers leave Somalia. Their mission is a failure.
1996: Aideed dies and is succeeded by his son, Hussein.
1998: Puntland region declares that it is autonomous from Somalia.
2000: Abdulkassim Salat Hussein becomes president of Somalia. Ali Khalif Gelayadh, the country's prime minister, announces a new government.
October 2004: Ethiopian-backed regional commander, Abdullahi Yusuf, is elected Somali president and head of a new transitional parliament.
June 5, 2005: Fighters loyal to the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) defeat US-backed leaders and take control of Mogadishu.
March-May 2006: Dozens of people are killed in fighting between rival armed groups in Mogadishu.
September: Transitional government and the Union of Islamic Courts hold peace talks in Khartoum, the Sudanese capital.
December: UIC loyalists flee Mogadishu in face of joint offensive by Ethiopian and Somali government forces. The joint force captures the city.
Al-Shabab has led a campaign against the government in recent months [AFP]January 2007: Union of Islamic Courts loyalists flee Kismayo, their port stronghold. Interim government puts state of emergency in place.
April: More than 320,000 Somalis have left their homes in Mogadishu since February amid fierce fighting, the UN says.
November: Nur Hassan Hussein is appointed as prime minister after his predecessor, Ali Mohamed Gedi, resigns.
May 1, 2008: US air raid kills Aden Hashi Ayro, leader of al-Shabab, an offshoot of the Union of Islamic Courts.
August 18: Somalia formally signs a peace deal with some opposition figures, but the pact is rejected by some groups.
August 22: Al-Shabab fighters seize Kismayu, a strategic southern port, after fighting that kills 70 people.
November 14: President Yusuf admits that insurgents control most of the country, raising the prospect his government could completely collapse.
December 14: Yusuf announces that he is sacking Nur Hassan Hussein, the prime minister, and the interim government.
December 15: The parliament votes in a special session in favour of keeping Hussein and his cabinet in office.
December 16: Yusuf appoints Mohamed Mohamoud Guled as prime minister, ignoring the parliament's vote in favour of keeping Hussein as prime minister.
December 24: Mohamed Mohamoud Guled resigns.
December 29: Yusuf resigns, saying that Sheikh Aden Madobe, the parliament speaker, will take over as interim president.
January 2, 2009: Ethiopia says it has started pulling its troops out of Somalia.
January 26: Last group of Ethiopian soldiers leave. Fighters from al-Shabab move into Baidoa, the seat of the transitional government.January 30: Somali MPs elect Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed new president of Somalia in neighbouring Djibouti.Janurary 31: President wins elections with 293 votes against 126 votes for his challenger, and is sworn in.