Insurgents attack AU troops in Mogadishu

Islamist insurgents attacked African Union peacekeepers in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, on Monday, triggering clashes that killed a civilian and wounded five others, witnesses said.

The insurgents fired artillery into Mogadishu’s southern K4 quarter, where Ugandan troops from the AU peacekeeping force are based, drawing retaliatory fire, residents said.

“A man died and three others were wounded when an RPG [rocket-propelled grenade] hit a house in K4 area,” said one witness, Amina Elmi. Several other residents said stray gunfire had wounded two further civilians.

The AU force in Somalia has been in Mogadishu since March 2007 and currently numbers about 3 000 troops, from Uganda and Burundi.

Monday’s violence comes the day after two AU peacekeepers from Burundi and three Somali civilians were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded in Mogadishu as new troops were coming in from the airport.

The hard-line al-Shabaab militia declared in mid-September that Mogadishu’s main airport was a tool of Ethiopia’s “occupation” of Somalia and vowed to bring down any plane that tried to land there.

The Islamists have since fired several mortar shells at the airport, triggering retaliatory fire that has caused dozens of civilian deaths.

A Burundian soldier told Agence France-Presse that fresh troops from Burundi landed at the airport on Monday. This was the third batch since Saturday, but the soldier refused to give the total number of new troops to have arrived in the past three days.

Aid groups have scaled down operations in Somalia because of growing insecurity largely blamed on Islamist militants, who have waged a guerrilla war since they were ousted last year by a joint Somali-Ethiopian offensive.

Somalia has been without an effective government since the 1991 ouster of Mohamed Siad Barre touched off bloodletting that has defied numerous bids to restore stability.—Sapa-AFP

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