U.S. congressman Donald Payne flew into Mogadishu flanked by six bodyguards on Monday, making what is believed to be the first visit to the Somali capital by a senior American politician since 1994.
Somali officials, who met him as he arrived on a small jet with Somalia's foreign minister, said Payne would discuss ways the international community could help the government, and the issue of piracy, during a visit due to last just a few hours.
He will meet the prime minister and the president, then give a news conference, an official told a Reuters reporter.
African Union (AU) soldiers on a peacekeeping mission in Somalia provided security for Payne on his visit to one of the world's most dangerous cities.
Payne, 74, a New Jersey Democrat, is in his 10th term in the U.S. House of Representatives and was first elected in 1988. He is chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health.
Jendayi Frazer, then top U.S. diplomat for Africa, became the first high-ranking U.S. official to visit Somalia in more than a decade when she landed in Baidoa in April 2007.
She avoided Mogadishu because of violence there, preferring to meet officials in the provincial town of Baidoa that was then the seat of the Somali parliament.
Payne criticized Ethiopia's invasion of Somalia in late 2006, when Addis Ababa sent thousands of troops to crush an Islamist movement that had taken control over much of the south.
That attack ousted Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, then an Islamist leader in Mogadishu and now president of the government.
U.S. foreign policy toward the Horn of Africa nation has been haunted by a disastrous battle in Mogadishu in 1993 that killed 18 U.S. soldiers.
(Reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne, Editing by Jack Kimball)