Friday, September 18, 2009

Al-Shabab of Somalia pursue jihad to African Union's "Peace-keeping" base.

Death toll rises to 21 in Somalia suicide attack

NAIROBI, Kenya – The death toll from twin suicide car bombings at the African Union's main peacekeeping base in Somalia rose to 21 Friday, including 17 peacekeepers, an AU spokesman said. It was the deadliest single attack on AU peacekeepers since they arrived in 2007.

Islamic insurgents posing as U.N. personnel detonated suicide car bombs Thursday at the peacekeepers' main base to avenge a U.S. commando raid on Monday that killed a key al-Qaida operative, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. Al-Shabab, a powerful Islamist group with foreign fighters in its ranks, claimed responsibility.

About 40 others were wounded in attack, said Gaffel Nkolokosa (en-koh-loh-KOH-sah), the spokesman for the African Union Mission for Somalia. He said the toll could rise.

A counterstrike from the AU base killed at least seven people.

France said Friday it has evacuated 17 wounded people to Nairobi, Kenya, where they were hospitalized. It did not indicate the nationalities of the injured or the nature of their injuries.

Thursday's suicide attack underscored links between al-Qaida's terror network and Somalia's homegrown insurgency. Many fear this impoverished and lawless African nation is becoming a haven for al-Qaida — a place for terrorists to train and plan attacks elsewhere.

Suicide attacks were virtually unknown in Somalia before 2007, even though the nation has been wracked by war for almost two decades.

Al-Shabab controls much of Somalia and operates openly in the capital, confining the government and peacekeepers to a few blocks of the city. The U.S. and the U.N. both support Somalia's government and the African peacekeeping force.

The AU force has long lamented that it is undermanned. Out of a planned 8,000 troops, there are about 5,000 troops from Uganda and Burundi.

Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and turned on each other. Piracy has flourished off the Somali coast, making the Gulf of Aden one of the most dangerous waterways in the world.

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