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Two Ugandan Peacekeepers Killed in Somalia  


Another Ugandan peacekeeper has been killed by Islamist insurgents in the Somali capital Mogadishu, the second soldier to die there in as many days. A militant Somali Islamist group called the Shabab has taken responsibility for the latest attacks on Ugandan peacekeeping troops, who make up the bulk of the African Union mission in Somalia. As VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, the Shabab has also threatened to shut down the main airport in the capital.

The spokesman for the African Union mission in Somalia Barigye Ba-Hoku says the latest attack on Ugandan peacekeepers took place early Monday near the international airport, where the majority of Uganda's contingent of about 1,600 troops has been based since they arrived in Mogadishu in March, 2007.

"This morning, Monday, at about 7:45, a small group of our field engineers moved out and they were hit by an improvised explosive device, which claimed the life of one of our soldiers and injured two," he said.

The roadside bombing followed Sunday's deadly clash with Islamist insurgents on a road the Ugandans regularly patrol in south Mogadishu. Insurgents using small arms opened fire on a military convoy from the rooftops of civilian homes, triggering a firefight in a heavily-populated area.

One Ugandan soldier died and two others were wounded. Local media reports say as many as 25 people were also hit by stray bullets.

Shabab militants, whose leaders have boasted of having ties to the al-Qaida terror network, took responsibility for Sunday's attack and is thought to have carried out Monday's roadside bombing. The group has claimed responsibility for several other Iraq-style attacks on African Union troops.

Last month, Shabab spokesman Sheikh Muktar Rowbow warned that his fighters were planning to attack African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and another smaller group of peacekeepers from Burundi. Robow accused them of acting as mercenaries for Somalia's transitional federal government and for the government's chief backer, Ethiopia.

In June, Shabab fighters and other Islamist hardliners rejected a U.N.-sponsored peace deal signed between the Somali government and an Islamist-led opposition faction led by Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. Like the Shabab, Ahmed's group wants a complete withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from the country, but unlike the Shabab, it supports African Union and United Nations intervention in Somalia.

Since the signing of the accord, cracks that appeared earlier in the alliance between Islamist insurgents loyal to Ahmed and the hardliners seem to have deepened.

On Saturday, the Shabab issued an ultimatum to the Somali government to close down the main airport in Mogadishu by Tuesday or face an unspecified threat. The group claimed the airport generates money for Ethiopia and is being used by American and Israeli spies.

A day later, a spokesman for insurgents loyal to Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed said the airport was too vital to the Somali people to be shut down and vowed to keep it open.

Somalia's insurgency began shortly after Ethiopian troops launched a military campaign in late 2006 to oust the Islamic Courts Union from power. The fighting has claimed the lives of thousands of people and has left several million others in dire need of humanitarian assistance.

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