Al-Qaeda-linked militants in Somalia said they attacked a United Nations compound in the capital, Mogadishu. At least 15 people died, according to the government.
Gunmen entered the UN Common Compound in the south of the city by foot after a truck packed with explosives blew up outside the gate, Nicholas Kay, the UN’s special representative for Somalia, said in an e-mailed statement. Explosions and gunfire rang out as staff gathered in a secure area, he said.
At least four foreigners and seven of the attackers are among the dead and dozens more were wounded, National Security Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled told reporters in the city. The UN is trying to verify reports of casualties. “There are certainly some injured and most likely worse,” Kay said.
Al-Shabaab, the militant group affiliated with al-Qaeda, has waged an insurgency against government forces since at least 2006. From August 2011, troops with the African Union Mission in Somalia, or Amisom, and the Ethiopian and Kenyan military have forced the militia to flee key areas including Mogadishu, the port of Kismayo and Baidoa, one of the largest cities.
The attack “highlights the repugnant terrorist tactics al-Shabaab continues to use to stand in the way of efforts to ease the suffering of the Somali people,” U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement yesterday. “Al-Shabaab has shown again and again that it stands on the side of death and destruction.”
Three Britons, two Kenyans and a South African were among 16 UN workers killed in yesterday’s attack, according to a post on al-Shabaab’s Twitter account. It said the UN was attacked because it represents a “monolithic block in the path toward the establishment of Allah’s law on earth.”
Denel SOC Ltd., South Africa’s state-owned armaments company, said three employees were killed in the attack. Of those, two were South Africans and one a Somali national. They were removing mines for the UN, Denel said in an e-mailed statement.
There have been no major advances by Amisom to recover more territory from al-Shabaab since the end of March because of “both operational and resource limitations,” the African Union said in a report last week.
The group “is far from being defeated and hence the fight against al-Shabaab cannot be declared won,” the continental body said. “The group’s fighters have melted into various communities in different regions, seeking to exploit clan rivalries and political disagreements, as well as the absence of effective local administrations.”
The attack won’t deter efforts to end terrorism within Somalia, Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon said yesterday.
“Somali and Amisom security forces responded immediately to the situation after the initial explosion and have brought the situation under control,” he said. “Al-Shabaab will not derail the peace process. They will not stop our recovery.”