11 killed in attack on peacekeepers in Somalia

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MOGADISHU, Somalia — An attack on an African Union peacekeeping base in the Somali capital Sunday killed 11 people and injured 15, the AU said, but it denied insurgent claims of a suicide attack.

MOGADISHU, Somalia — An attack on an African Union peacekeeping base in the Somali capital Sunday killed 11 people and injured 15, the AU said, but it denied insurgent claims of a suicide attack. El Ghassim Wane, a spokesman for the AU in Addis Ababa, said the insurgents had fired mortars onto the base in Mogadishu. He gave no further details. But Sheik Muktar Robow, a spokesman for the al-Shabab insurgent group, insisted that, "Our fighters have carried out two suicide attacks on the infidels in Mogadishu, inflicting heavy losses." The AU peacekeeping force in Mogadishu has had a restricted mandate to guard key government installations in the two years it has been here. It has not been involved in fighting Islamic militants in the capital, battles that have killed thousands of civilians over the past two years. But hardline groups still view the peacekeepers as an occupying force. Al-Shabab, an extremist Islamic group, has threatened to focus its attacks on AU troops now that Ethiopian troops have left Mogadishu after a two-year deployment. Also Sunday, gunmen kidnapped a Pakistani in northern Somalia, said Muse Gelle, governor of the Bari region in Somalia’s semiautonomous Puntland region. The man was traveling to a farming project where he was working, Gelle said. Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said he was unaware that any Pakistani national had been kidnapped in Somalia. The man’s name and employer were not immediately known. The area of the Horn of Africa nation is notorious for kidnappings and piracy. Pirates also seized a Greek-owned cargo ship Sunday with a 22-member crew off Somalia’s coast. Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991. The U.S. State Department considers al-Shabab a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida, something the group has denied. Somalia’s government controls virtually no territory in this unstable nation. Former soldier, rebel and warlord Abdullahi Yusuf resigned as president in December after failing to pacify the country during his four years in office. A moderate Islamist leader, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, was elected by parliament, and observers hope he will bring many of Somalia’s Islamic factions into a more inclusive government. Ahmed was chairman of the Islamic Courts Union that ran Mogadishu for six months in 2006 before Ethiopian soldiers drove them from power. Associated Press writer Anita Powell contributed to this report from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. ______ Copyright 2009 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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