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African Peace Keepers Deny Somalia Residents Accusation


The Africa Union Peace Keeping Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has sharply denied accusations it was shelling homes of innocent civilians. This follows seven days of deadly clashes between hard line Islamic insurgents and government forces which reportedly left at least 139 dead and scores injured. The hard line Islamic insurgent group, al-Shabaab says it would intensify its attacks after its commander escaped an assassination attempt that it blamed on the government. The group has refused to recognize the new administration promising to eventually take over the country.

Major Barigye Ba-Huko is the spokesman for AMISOM. He told VOA that the insurgents are using the shelling as an excuse to attack AMISOM bases.

"We believe that the allegations that are being peddled to be emanating from the population are allegations of those forces who are opposed to the peace process. They are trying to create an excuse of attacking AMISOM positions," Ba-Huko said.

He said the hard line insurgents have found excuses to continue their insurgency against the new Somali government.

"Don't forget that previously they have given all sorts of conditions for them to join the dialogue table and among them were initially the presence of the Ethiopian National Defense forces…after that they said AMISOM should leave before they negotiate," he said.

Ba-Huko expressed skepticism about the alleged genuine intentions of the insurgent group.

"I can assure you that even if AMISOM left today, tomorrow these guys would come up with another excuse," Ba-Huko said.

He said the accusation being leveled against the African Union troops is a pretext for the insurgents to attack AMISOM positions.

Ba-Huko said the peace keepers would not be drawn into an all out warfare with the insurgents.

"We know their tactics, we are prepared for those tactics and we are not ready to fall into their tactics of pulling us into the conflict," Ba-Huko said.

He said it was not clear if the allegations of extortions by insurgents are true.

"As AMISOM we have not been able to verify those allegations, but going by the behavior of all those forces that have been opposed to the peace process, we would not have any doubt in our minds that it is possible," he said.

Ba-Huko said it was apparent that the insurgents are making their own rules and implementing them with sheer brute force and intimidation.

"There was a situation in the Bakara market and we were informed that the business community was being held at ransom. And they would have to part with something… and those who are not able to do that would have to lose their lives," Ba-Huko said.

He said the insurgents are taking advantage of the weakness of the new Somali administration.

"This is a relatively new government it's not been able to consolidate its power and that is the advantage that the forces that oppose the peace process are taking," he said.

Ba-Huko said the Africa Union forces would not renege on their mandate to fully support the new Somali administration led by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

"As AMISOM, among other tasks that we are supposed to implement here or to carry on is the task of participation or helping in the national security stabilization plan," Ba-Huko said.

Some political observers believe years of conflict in Somalia has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions more, defied 15 attempts to establish central rule and created one of the world's worst aid crises.

They say the country's 18 years of anarchy has left millions displaced, killed tens of thousands and created one of the world's worst aid crises. Attacks on relief workers, extortion and regular clashes have hampered groups trying to work there.

Somalia has been without an effective government since 1991 after President Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown through a coup d'état.

Many diplomats see President Sheikh Shari Sheikh Ahmed's new administration as one of the latest attempts at restoring peace to Somalia.

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