Somalia

Somalia: Gunmen attack UN health office in Mogadishu

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By Ibrahim Mohamed

MOGADISHU, May 15 (Reuters) - Gunmen attacked a U.N. World Health Organisation (WHO) office in Mogadishu and wounded a guard, in the latest strike near the world body's facilities in Somalia since the weekend, a WHO official said on Tuesday.

The late Monday attack came just two days after U.N. aid chief John Holmes, the most senior U.N. official to visit Mogadishu in a decade, cut short his visit when bombs planted by insurgents killed three people near a U.N. compound on Saturday.

"We were attacked last night by gunmen wearing (government) uniforms. Our security guards repelled them. Unfortunately one of our guards was wounded," Mohamed Abdullahi, the acting officer in charge of WHO operations in Mogadishu, told Reuters.

A U.N. security source who spoke on condition of anonymity said there had been a similar attack on Mogadishu's largest market, the Bakara market.

"The WHO incident is just the same. These are gunmen disguising themselves as government troops. I do not think this will affect U.N. operations," the source said.

The attacks have raised the prospect that insurgents, drawn from disgruntled clansmen and Islamist fighters defeated by the government and its Ethiopian allies, are still active in the seaside capital despite relative calm after fierce fighting.

The United Nations says recent battles between rebels and allied Somali-Ethiopian forces have killed some 1,300 civilians and triggered the worst displacement crisis in the world.

Some 1,600 Ugandan troops, the vanguard of an African Union (AU) peacekeeping force, have been able to do little other than guard the air and sea ports and defuse unexploded weaponry.

TROOPS ON WAY?

The AU says Burundi is also set to send 1,700 soldiers by the end of the month after France agreed to provide an airlift.

Geoffrey Mugumya, director of the AU Peace and Security Commission, told Reuters there were encouraging signs Ghana may follow suit with 300 soldiers and Nigeria with another 850 in the weeks after that.

"Ghana sent a military delegation here to get the nitty-gritty of how things will work in terms of logistics," he said in Addis Ababa on Tuesday. "And now the election is over in Nigeria, they will be ready to come."

Malawi, which initially expressed willingness to send troops, has pulled out given the insecurity, Mugumya said.

"They candidly told us they would not be able to send troops, we have to respect that," he said.

Mugumya said Ethiopia should be patient until the pacification job is finished: "I am not in a hurry to see Ethiopia leave."

"Once you are there, you have started something. You cannot leave before you have stabilised it. It is a sacrifice."

In Mogadishu, "at least there is a semblance of peace", Mugumya said. "But new things are coming up like roadside bombs, suicide attacks. Those are the things we are worried about."

On Tuesday, a Somali militant group calling itself the "Young Mujahideen Movement" claimed responsibility for attacks killing two senior Somali officials.

"God the greatest defeat the crusader Ethiopians and their infidel brothers", said the Internet statement, which could not be verified, but appeared on a Web site used by al Qaeda militants.

(Additional reporting by Guled Mohamed in Mogadishu, Andrew Cawthorne in Addis Ababa and Dubai bureau)

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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