Somali rebels killed six Burundian peacekeepers during an offensive against Islamist insurgents, says Burundi’s army, one of the force’s heaviest losses in a single day.
The peacekeepers died in fighting in the Somalian capital Mogadishu on Wednesday. They were supporting Somali government troops who seized three militant bases along the city’s industrial road that leads to the Bakara market, one of the main strongholds of the al Shabaab Islamist militant group.
Horn of Africa experts say the peacekeeping force, known as AMISOM, is all that prevents the rebels from toppling the UN-backed interim government that has struggled to quash the four-year insurgency, Reuters reports.
“AMISOM and Burundi deplore the death of six peacekeepers and twelve others who were injured during the operation,” Burundi’s army said in a statement.
Lieutenant Colonel Jastace Ciza, a spokesman for the Burundian troops, said all six dead peacekeepers were from the central African nation. Burundi has deployed four battalions to the anarchic Horn of Africa nation. Ugandans make up the majority of the 8,000-strong force.
Somalia’s Defence Minister Abdihakim Haji Fiqi said on Wednesday the sites regained by government forces included a defence ministry building and a milk factory.
“You cannot go into a swimming pool and then come out dry. When there is fighting, death is possible, anything is possible,” said AMISOM spokesman Major Barigye Ba-Hoku, adding that more than a dozen rebels had been killed on the same day.
Separately, Kenya said it was beefing up security along its desert frontier with Somalia, near the town of Mandera after fighting in Balad Hawa on the Somali side on Wednesday threatened to spill across the border.
“We will safeguard our border. Those who attempt to violate the border, they have to be prepared to face a … re-birth,” Kenya’s Internal Security Minister George Saitoti told reporters.
Police in Kenya’s North Eastern province said six Kenyans were wounded by “stray bullets” during Wednesday’s clashes in Balad Hawa, located a stone’s throw from the border.