Suicide attack on AU base in Somalia kills 3

AP News
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Posted: May 30, 2011 4:32 PM
Suicide attack on AU base in Somalia kills 3

Three people were killed after suicide bombers attacked an African Union peacekeeping base in the Somali capital Monday, the AU said in a press release.

Incidents on four other bases initially believed to be similar attacks appeared to be false alarms, a Nairobi-based diplomat said.

The AU press release said that suicide bombers had driven up to a key AU base and engaged the troops there in a firefight but had been unable to get in. Three would-be attackers were shot, the press release said. Two AU soldiers and one member of a government-allied militia were killed in the attack and when the body of one of the attackers blew up, the statement said.

The AU's Chief of Staff Col. Innocent Oula paid tribute to the troops.

"But for their brave and speedy action, many more lives, including those of innocent civilians, would have been lost," he said.

AU soldier Capt. Prosper Hakizimana said a minivan had pulled up at one base and four men got out of the vehicle. One suicide bomber was shot when he attempted to enter the base and blew up. He said two others were shot by AU forces and one initially escaped but was eventually captured.

He said five AU soldiers were wounded in the attack.

Earlier, a Nairobi-based diplomat said that five bases had been attacked by suicide bombers. The diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to speak to the press, said that the four attacks had been reported from soldiers in the field shortly after the initial attack on the base.

He said that soldiers reported explosions. Later, the diplomat said the reports of suicide bombings on four of the bases turned out to be false alarms, caused by gunfire or rocket propelled grenades being fired nearby. The AU was investigating, he said.

The al-Qaida-linked Islamist al-Shabab militia is battling the weak U.N.-backed government for control of the capital of Mogadishu. Around 9,000 AU troops are stationed in the city to prevent the government from being overrun by militants.

Al-Shabab has frequently launched suicide attacks against both government and AU soldiers. In October 2008, five nearly simultaneous suicide bombings claimed 21 lives. Since then, there have been several suicide attacks on African Union peacekeeping bases, including a suicide attack in 2009 on the main AU base in Mogadishu killed 21 people.

The African Union, the Somali government and pro-government militias launched an offensive against militants earlier this year, making notable gains in territory. The government once controlled only a couple square miles (kilometers) near Mogadishu's seaside airport. AU officials say they now control half the city.

Last week, the AU peacekeeping force said it was trying to choke off a key funding stream for the Somali insurgency by pushing Islamist fighters out of the capital's main market. The Bakara market has been the site of hundreds of battles in recent years.

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Houreld reported from Nairobi, Kenya.