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Blast kills four AU peacekeepers in Somalia

A remote-controlled bomb kills four African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and a civilian in the Somalia capital, Mogadishu.

world Updated: May 16, 2007 19:02 IST

A remote-controlled bomb killed four African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and a civilian on Wednesday in the Somalia capital, in the kind of Iraq-style attack threatened by militant Islamist insurgents.

Five peacekeepers and two children were also wounded in the blast targeting an AU convoy, which an AU security source said was the first such attack against the 1,600-strong Ugandan contingent -- who had so far only been shot at.

"We lost four and five were wounded. It was a roadside bomb and its intention was to hit peacekeepers," AU mission spokesman Captain Paddy Ankunda said.

The blast occurred near Mogadishu's old seaport, Ankunda said. Government soldiers immediately cordoned off the neighborhood -- a decrepit clutch of buildings inhabited mostly by refugees -- and began searching for the attackers.

Suspicion immediately fell on Islamist insurgents who have waged a guerrilla campaign in the capital since the interim government and its Ethiopian allies ran them out of the anarchic city in late December.

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

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

Witness who escaped injury despite being thrown into the air by the blast said the bomb was hidden in a pile of garbage.

"I was walking when suddenly I heard a loud bang and found myself in the air. I fell a few meters 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 media.

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

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

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

Use of roadside bombs -- a favorite weapon in Iraq -- is on the rise in Mogadishu. They have previously been used against the interim government and Ethiopian soldiers.

"We have overcome many which were detected. This was a remote-controlled bomb," the AU security source said.
Security experts said the blast, taken alongside the assassinations of government officials and attacks on or near 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 expert who follows Somalia, but who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Late on Tuesday near the central city of Jowhar, gunmen attacked the convoy of the Lower Shabelle region's governor, Mohamed Omar Deele, and killed four soldiers and two journalists traveling with them, a government soldier in the convoy said.

Also on Tuesday, an unknown attacker threw a grenade into a cinema in Baardheere, southern Somalia, killing five and wounding 30. The Islamists, during their brief rule in southern Somalia last year, often closed cinemas they saw as un-Islamic.