By Alan Boswell
17 September 2009
Two suicide bombings have rocked the headquarters of the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia, killing the second-in-command and injuring the head general. The UN says at least 30 personnel were injured and being evalcuated for treatment. An Islamist militant group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Two vehicles entered and then exploded in the African Union peacekeeping force compound, sending a heavy trail of black smoke into the skyline of the capital city.
Among the dead is the top Burundian military officer in Somalia and deputy commander of the peacekeeping force, General Juvenal Niyonguruza. The head military official, Ugandan General Nathan Mugisha, was injured in the attack.
The peacekeeping force is composed of about 5,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops. At least nine peacekeepers were killed, and some reports have indicated that Somalis may be among the dead as well.
An eyewitness at the Mogadishu airport, which is situated next to the AMISOM base, says the two cars entered the compound and then exploded near the petrol station located in the base. The two cars reportedly carried the United Nations insignia on their sides.
The eyewitness says the two vehicles first attempted to enter through the airport, but were refused access by security guards. He said the cars then drove over to the AMISOM entry way.
A security officer has reported that vehicles were allowed inside because the guard at the AMISOM gate assumed they were with the United Nations.
Heavy mortar exchanges have since erupted in the Bakara market area of Mogadishu, killing a number of civilians and wounding many more.
A spokesman for the al Shabab terrorist group claimed the suicide attack was in retaliation for the killing of a wanted senior al-Qaida operative in the region.
Kenyan Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, who was hiding with the Islamic militant group in southern Somalia, was killed Monday in a U.S.-led military operation.
Suicide bombings are historically an alien practice in Somali culture, but al-Shabab has begun to seriously integrate the tactic as it increasingly seeks to link its campaign with other radical Islamic movements around the world.
The al-Qaida linked Kenyan killed Monday was wanted by the United States for his alleged role in the bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in a popular tourist destination of the coast of Mombasa. He is also believed to have been involved in a botched attempt to shoot down an Israeli charter jet leaving the Mombasa airport the same day.
Meanwhile, the terrorist group released a set of demands for the release of a French hostage who was acting as a security advisor to the Mogadishu government. The terms include demands that all AMISOM forces be pulled out of Somalia.