Mon, Jan 19, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Somalia’s Shebab insurgents target AU peacekeepers

AFP , MOGADISHU

Somalia’s hardline Shebab insurgents on Saturday attacked African Union (AU) peacekeepers for the first time since Ethiopian troops pulled out from Mogadishu earlier this week, officials said.

The Islamist militia, which had vowed to target the AU following Ethiopia’s withdrawal, “opened gun and mortar fire on the Burundian contingent’s camp” at the former military academy, resident Abdullahi Moalim Ashkir said.

“They attacked our second battalion in the Kuliyadda area late this afternoon but there were no casualties,” said a Burundian army official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

“They are also firing mortar shells at the former parliament building where our forces are stationed, but no casualties were reported,” said Baridgye Bahuko, spokesman for the AU’s mission in Somalia.

More than two years after invading Somalia to prop up a weak transitional administration and remove an Islamist movement from power, Ethiopian troops vacated their last positions in Mogadishu earlier this week.

While the move was welcomed by most, the Shebab militia — believed to have links with al-Qaeda — vowed to continue its struggle against foreign “crusaders” and focus its attacks on the AU’s 3,400 troops.

“It does not mean that the holy war is over if the enemy of Allah left the capital but our goal is to chase them and attack them in the places where they remain,” said Sheik Ali Mohamed, a senior Shebab officer in the capital.

Mogadishu had enjoyed a relative lull in violence since the Ethiopian army pulled back, with both opposition forces and government troops taking over abandoned positions.

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