Somalia

Bomb kills four Ugandan peacekeepers in Somalia

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By Guled Mohamed

MOGADISHU, May 16 (Reuters) - A remote-controlled bomb killed four Ugandan peacekeepers and a civilian in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday as Islamist militants followed through on a threat to wage an Iraq-style insurgency.

Five peacekeepers and two children were also wounded in the attack on the African Union convoy, which an AU security source said was the first of its kind against the 1,600-strong Ugandan contingent -- who had previously only been shot at.

"It was a roadside bomb and its intention was to hit peacekeepers," AU mission spokesman Captain Paddy Ankunda said.

The injured soldiers will be evacuated to Uganda's capital Kampala. "Some of them are seriously wounded," Ankunda said.

Suspicion immediately fell on Islamist rebels who have waged a guerrilla campaign in Mogadishu since the interim government and its Ethiopian allies seized control of the capital from them in late December.

The government, along with the United States and Ethiopia, accuses the Islamists of having links to al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden has urged his followers to help the Somali insurgents. The rebels have long promised an Iraq-style insurgency.

The explosion shattered a relative calm in the seaside city that had endured since battles between insurgents and the interim government, backed by its Ethiopian allies, that killed at least 1,300 people in March and April.

HIDDEN IN GARBAGE

One witness who escaped injury said the bomb was hidden in a pile of garbage.

"Suddenly I heard a loud bang and found myself in the air. I fell a few metres away. I thought I was dead. I touched my whole body to see if I had any wounds," Muhyidin Ahmed, a 32-year-old father of six, told Reuters.

A man urinating in a nearby bush was blown to pieces, Ahmed said: "His flesh is scattered everywhere." Two children playing in the area were wounded and rushed to hospital, he added.

The attack appeared to contradict the interim government's assessment, shared by the Ethiopian government, that the insurgency had been defeated and the city pacified.

On Wednesday, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Meles Zenawi said his troops would not leave the country until several thousand more AU peacekeepers arrived to avoid a security vacuum.

"It Is a burden financially and otherwise that we would have preferred to do without," Meles told Reuters in an interview.

"But we recognise that if we were to withdraw in a precipitous manner, it would affect the security of Somalia negatively and also of the region. We will withdraw in a responsible manner, making sure there is no security vacuum."

Somalia has been in a state of anarchy since the 1991 fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, and this government is the 14th attempt at establishing central authority.

The use of roadside bombs -- a favourite weapon in Iraq -- is on the rise. "We have overcome many which were detected. This was a remote-controlled bomb," the AU security source said.

Security experts said the blast, along with assassinations of government officials and attacks on United Nations offices, pointed to a coalescing insurgency.

"They are not gone, they have just been scattered. The bad boys are resilient. They have changed tactics and they are going to do it a la Baghdad," said one, who asked not to be named.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Cawthorne in Addis Ababa, Bryson Hull in Nairobi, Sahra Abdi Ahmed in Kismayu and Ibrahim Mohamed in Mogadishu)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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