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Somali rebels threaten attacks against peacekeepers

Extremists in Somalia have threatened to attack African union peacekeepers.

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Extremists in Somalia have threatened to carry out suicide attacks against African Union peacekeepers who are to begin deploying in the war-ravaged country in the coming days.

"We promise we shall welcome them with bullets from heavy guns, exploding cars, and young men eager to carry out martyrdom operations against these colonial forces," said a statement posted on an Islamic website by a newly formed extremist group known as the Popular Resistance Movement in the Land of the Two Migrations.

"The Ugandan troops and those from the other African states who are being sent to Somalia are in our eyes no better than the Ethiopians who are occupying our country by force," said the statement, signed by Harith Aba-Sadiq, who described himself as the "Organizer of Mogadishu People's Resistance."

Although insurgents have threatened to attack any peacekeepers before, this is the first time they have specified countries and the types of attacks they will launch.

Meanwhile in the capital, Mogadishu, two local government officials were killed by unknown gunmen late Wednesday. One was killed as he returned from a mosque where he had been praying. No one has claimed responsibility.

Government security forces arrested seven men they accused of being terrorists, including Sheik Sharif Mohamed Ulusow, the imam of the country's largest mosque, which draws crowds of up to 40,000 people at times of worship.

The African Union peacekeeping force, which is planned to reach a level of 8,000 troops, is meant to help the country's fragile, transitional government establish security in the country following battles with a radical Islamic movement in December and January.

The United Nations Security Council approved its deployment in a unanimous vote Tuesday.

First Published: Feb 22, 2007 18:30 IST