The African Union said its peacekeeping mission in Somalia will not be deterred by Sunday's terrorist bomb attack in Mogadishu that killed 11 Burundian peacekeepers and wounded dozens more.
The AU Peace and Security Council met in emergency closed session Monday following the deadliest attack on troops of its AMISOM peacekeeping mission. AU Peace and Security Department Director Jeffrey Mugumya confirmed two suicide bombers gained access to the Burundian AMISOM compound by following a supply truck through the gate.
Mugumya told reporters security will be dramatically reinforced around the AMISOM bases, especially in light of recent threats by Islamic radicals to target the peacekeepers. But he said Burundi and Uganda, the main AMISOM troop contributors, had reaffirmed they would not be intimidated by the attacks.
"The ambassador of Burundi, Burundi is a member of Peace and Security Council, reassured the Council of her country's commitment to continue pursuing peace in Somalia. The same with Uganda. So this is not going to blackmail us from continuing our efforts from defending the people of Somalia," he said.
Mugumya said Burundi and Uganda are both firm in their commitment to have more peacekeepers on the ground in Mogadishu within days. AU officials earlier said 1,700 additional troops would be arriving by the end of February, bringing the AMISOM to a strength of about 5,100.
A statement issued by the Burundian government had asked for permission to respond to attacks on the peacekeepers, which have become more frequent in the past few weeks.
Mugumya said AMISOM force commander, General Francis Okello, had assured AU members that Mogadishu airport is open and safe for troop planes to land. Somali diplomats confirmed President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and some members of his cabinet had flown to the capital to begin setting up their national unity government.
Mugumya said nothing would deter the deployment of more peacekeepers within a few days.
"But I know they are almost on the tarmac. Of course these incidents, we are involved in repatriating the dead and wounded, it might delay for some time, but they are ready. It will not stop our deployment," said Mugumya.
The radical militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.
Al-Shabab spokesman Abu Mansour said he congratulates all Muslims for sacrifices made by two mujahedeen operating in Somalia against the enemy of God and foreign invaders. He called it a great victory for the mujahedeen.
African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping countered with a statement condemning in the strongest terms what he called the 'criminal and cowardly acts carried out by elements bent on undermining moves toward peace in Somalia. He noted that the latest wave of attacks in Mogadishu come just as 'remarkable achievements are being made toward establishment of an all-inclusive political and reconciliation process in Somalia.