Somali AU bases hit by simultaneous suicide attacks

Five simultaneous suicide attacks targeted African Union (AU) bases in the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Monday night, officials said.

A Nairobi-based diplomat said he could not yet give casualty figures, but said only some of the attacks had been stopped in time. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the press.

African Union soldier Captain Prosper Hakizimana said one suicide bomber was dressed in a Somali government military uniform when he attempted to enter a base. The man was shot at by AU forces and immediately blew up, Hakizimana said, adding that casualties for that attack were unknown.

Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists are battling the weak United Nations-backed government for control of the capital of Mogadishu. Around 9 000 AU troops are stationed in the city to prevent the government from being overrun by militants.

The insurgency has frequently launched suicide attacks against both government and AU soldiers. A suicide attack in 2009 on the main AU base in Mogadishu killed 21 people.

The African Union, the Somali government and pro-government militias launched an offensive against militants earlier this year, making notable gains in territory. The government once controlled only a couple square kilometres near Mogadishu’s seaside airport. AU officials say they now control half the city.

Last week, the AU peacekeeping force said it was trying to choke off a key funding stream for the Somali insurgency by pushing Islamist fighters out of the capital’s main market. The Bakara market has been the site of hundreds of battles in recent years.—Sapa-AP

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