From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Mon Feb 23 2009 - 08:39:04 EST
Somalia's Shabaab vows more attacks on African troops
Mon Feb 23, 2009 10:27am GMT
* Somalia's al Shabaab insurgents vow more attacks on AU
* Burundi pledges reinforcements after 11 troops killed
* Analysts split over al Shabaab's strength
By Abdi Sheikh
MOGADISHU, Feb 23 (Reuters) - Somalia's hardline Islamist insurgent movement
al Shabaab pledged on Monday to stage further attacks against African
peacekeepers after the deadliest strike yet killed at least 11 soldiers from
"This is our land and you are non-believers," said a statement in Somali on
a website used by the militants, who are fighting the Somali government and
a 3,500-strong African Union (AU) peacekeeping force.
"Leave us for your safety or we shall never tire of increasing your death
The site, www.kataaib.info, posted photos of two young men it said were
suicide bombers who detonated explosives in a jacket and a car next to an AU
compound on Sunday in a former university of Somalia's coastal capital
The militants' Internet statement said 52 people died and 34 were wounded in
The AU said the compound was targeted by mortar bombs, not suicide bombers.
It said 15 were injured, as well as 11 killed.
Witnesses, however, appeared to back the version of a suicide attack. They
described a car speeding towards the gate before hearing a blast and seeing
plumes of smoke rise.
Somalia's new leaders -- President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed, a moderate Islamist
[ID:nLV26136], and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, the
Western-educated son of a slain former president [ID:nLG705221] -- were due
in Mogadishu later on Monday.
They have been in neighbouring Djibouti to select a cabinet under a
U.N.-brokered process intended to form a unity government and end 18 years
of conflict in the failed Horn of Africa state.
BURUNDI VOWS REINFORCEMENTS
Their biggest threat is from al Shabaab which, together with allied militia,
controls large swathes of south Somalia including the strategic towns of
Baidoa and Kismayu.
By contrast, the government controls only parts of Mogadishu.
Since the start of an Islamist insurgency at the beginning of 2007, at least
16,000 civilians have been killed and a million people uprooted from their
Al Shabaab gained support as one of many groups waging war against Ethiopian
troops who had been propping up the previous government for the last two
The Ethiopian withdrawal in January placated some Somalis, but al Shabaab
has now turned its fire on the African peacekeeping mission and the new
In a statement on the weekend strike, the government of Burundi, which
contributes nearly half of the African mission AMISOM, said it remained
committed to stabilising Somalia and planned to reinforce its contingent
Burundi's military called for permission to respond.
"The current AMISOM mandate hampers our job. So we want our troops to
respond to any attack directed to them and pursue the insurgents up to their
stronghold," said army spokesman Colonel Adolphe Manirakiza.
Regional diplomats hope the inclusion of many moderate Islamists in the new
Somali government will provide a new dynamic that may marginalise hardliners
like al Shabaab.
The group is on Washington's list of terrorist groups and is known to have
foreign fighters within its ranks.
Analysts are split over al Shabaab's strength in Somalia.
Some say it could overrun the government and take over the south, while
others say it only has a few thousand fighters and has despite waning
popular support managed, via the media and high-profile strikes, to project
an image of greater power. (Additional reporting by Abdiaziz Hassan in
Nairobi and Patrick Nduwimana in Bujumbura; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne;
Editing by Katie Nguyen)
C Thomson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
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