Islamic insurgents attack base in Somalia, 3 dead | world | Hindustan Times
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Islamic insurgents attack base in Somalia, 3 dead

world Updated: May 20, 2009 15:15 IST
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Islamic insurgents attacked an African Union peacekeeping base in the Somali capital early Wednesday, killing three civilians sleeping in their nearby home.

Mogadishu resident Farhiyo Sharif Awale said on Wednesday that a 6-year-old child was among the dead after a mortar slammed into the home. A spokesman for the AU troops said none of his soldiers was hurt.

Islamic insurgents in recent weeks have stepped up attacks aimed at toppling Somalia's Western-backed government, prompting tens of thousands of people to flee Mogadishu, the capital.

At least 43,000 people have left since May 8, the UN reported on Wednesday. Foreign ministers from neighboring states were meeting Wednesday in Ethiopia to discuss Somalia's crisis.

Somalia has not had an effective government since 1991, when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre before turning on one another. A Western-backed transitional government was formed in 2004, but failed to assert control.

The United States worries that Somalia could be a terrorist breeding ground, particularly since Osama bin Laden has declared his support for the Islamists.

The US accuses the leading Somali Islamist faction, al-Shabab, of harboring the al-Qaida-linked terrorists who allegedly blew up the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

But the Americans are hesitant to take a leading role in Somalia and currently have no overt involvement. A botched intervention in the early 1990s left 18 US servicemen dead and the legacy of the "Black Hawk Down" battle still weighs heavily on both countries.

Somalia also has to grapple with an age-old clan structure that makes governing the country nearly impossible. There are dozens of clan factions in the capital, each making demands on the government and each a potential spoiler, capable of extreme violence if ignored.