Somali Islamist insurgents have killed 11 Burundian soldiers in what Reuters describes as the deadliest attack on the African Union peacekeeping force there to date.
Islamist insurgents say two suicide bombers, one in a car packed with explosives, had carried out the attacks yesterday morning.
“These attacks have reached today an unprecedented level, resulting in the killing of 11 Burundian soldiers, while 15 others have sustained serious injuries,” the African Union said in a statement.
The Shabab, one of the Islamist militias battling for control of Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack.
Somalia has been plagued by conflict for the past 18 years, and Islamist insurgents have been fighting a weak central government for more than two years. More than 16 000 civilians have been killed since the start of 2007 and one million uprooted from their homes.
While some Islamist groups have recently pledged to support the new administration led by President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, a moderate Islamist, the hard-line Shabab has vowed to fight on and wants foreign peacekeepers to leave.
Somalia`s new internal security minister, Omar Hashi Aden, said the government wanted the 3500 peacekeepers to stay and would “respond very quickly to this cruel attack.”
Witnesses said they had seen a car speeding toward the gate and then heard a blast and saw plumes of smoke.
The Shabab`s spokesman, Sheik Muktar Robow Mansoor, said that a suicide bomber wearing a jacket with explosives had detonated his charge near the peacekeepers` compound and that another in a car had set off his device at the gate.
But Major Barigye Ba-Hoku, spokesman for the African Union force in Mogadishu, denied that a suicide bombing had taken place. The African Union said its troops had been under intense mortar fire since last Tuesday.
BBC reports the AU’s Burundian and Ugandan peacekeepers are now the only foreign troops in Mogadishu. Ethiopian troops, which had had been in the country since 2006 to support Somalia’s fragile transitional government, pulled out at the end of January.
An AU statement condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms, saying the bombers had a “complete disregard” for the aspirations of the Somali people and the interests of the country.
The AU’s top diplomat, Jean Ping, called for continued international support for the transitional government and for the AU in order to bring reconciliation and “lasting peace” to the country.