Al-Shabaab and AU peacekeepers clash in Somalia

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Thursday, February 26, 2009

In ongoing clashes that started Tuesday in Somalia, Islamist rebels Al-Shabaab battled troops from the African Union's peacekeeping force, African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM).

According to rights groups and other sources, 81 people have been killed. Among them are 48 civilians, said the Elman Peace and Human Rights Organisation. Another 90 civilians have been injured, the group added.

On Sunday, Al-Shabaab attacked Burundi troops with suicide bombers at an AMISOM base in Mogadishu. 11 troops were killed and 15 wounded.

Xuddur, the capital of Bakool, is reported to have fallen under Al-Shabaab control.

Political map of Somalia as of February 3, 2009.

"Al-Shabaab fighters are now patrolling the town and the other group fled," local elder Hussein Abdi Isak told Reuters in a phone interview.

The United Nations Security Council issued a statement to "condemn in the strongest terms the attacks on the African Union mission in Somalia." The statement was passed unanimously and urges all Somalis "to reject violence and extremism."

"This is a kind of setback, no doubt about it, but this is not the time to despair," the President of the United Nations Security Council, Japan's Ambassador Yukio Takasu, told reporters. "On the contrary, I think all of us have much stronger determination to continue to provide and accelerate the logistical support to AMISOM."

The African Union says its peacekeeping force in Somalia — which is supposed to number 8,000, but currently has about 3,500 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi — is in dire need of reinforcement.

However, Nigeria, which was supposed to send 850 officers and soldiers within weeks, says it now has second thoughts.

"At the time the commitment was made to go to Somalia, what was on ground was peacekeeping," Foreign Minister Ojo Maduekwe said. "But the situation in Somalia has deteriorated considerably. We are not in a hurry to start getting the body bags to this country."

"If we are going to risk the lives of our young men and women, if we are going to put our young men and women in harm's way, it has to be a carefully analyzed mission response. It should not be without adequate planning and it should not be without adequate logistical, material support," he added.


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