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Death Toll in Somalia Base Attack Rises

  • James Butty

FILE - Ugandan peacekeeping troops stand during a ceremony at Mogadishu airport in Somalia.

FILE - Ugandan peacekeeping troops stand during a ceremony at Mogadishu airport in Somalia.

The African Union says it has killed the last three of eight al-Shabab militants who attacked its base in the Somali capital of Mogadishu, bringing the death toll to 14.

A spokesman for the AU mission in Somalia (AMISOM) told VOA that five AU peacekeepers and a foreign contractor had died in Thursday's raid on one of the city's most fortified bases.

Colonel Ali Aden Hamoud said an investigation was under way to find out how militants dressed in Somali uniforms infiltrated the Halane facility near Mogadishu International Airport, which is also home to a U.N. office and several embassies.

"From our coordination, there will be some change, for sure," he said.

The identity and nationality of the foreign contractor have not been released.

AMISOM said Thursday that it had regained control of the base and had "restored normalcy" after rebels ambushed the compound around midday, trying to gain access to what the peacekeeping mission called critical infrastructure.

In claiming responsibility for the attack, al-Shabab said the raid targeted a Christmas party at the base.

Resolve from U.N.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Friday condemned the attack and reaffirmed the United Nations' resolve to support the Somali government.

The U.N. Security Council also deplored the raid and said that any acts of terrorism are unjustifiable.

AU and Somali government forces have pushed al-Shabab out of most Somali cities and towns. The al-Qaida-linked group, however, still launches periodic raids and suicide attacks on AU and government targets.

Al-Shabab fighters have killed several Somali lawmakers this year and mounted two major attacks on the Somali presidential palace.

Despite the magnitude of the latest attack, Ambassador Maman Sidikou, special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, said the continental body remained committed to supporting the Somali people and government in rebuilding their country.

“Today, I’ve been on the phone with generals and officers, and I told them many people will be unhappy with us in coming days simply because you’re going to strictly enforce the regulations so that there is no mistake of this sort," he said, emphasizing the need to fully enforce all security measures to ensure that such an attack would not happen again.

"This means we have to agree with our partners, the U.N. and other partners, on how the camps are going to be monitored, who can enter and who cannot enter,” Sidikou added before expressing grief about the losses.

“We lost five of our colleagues, five young soldiers to this attack by al-Shabab on our camp. These young men have been [in] Somalia, some of them one year, some a few months, sacrificing to ensure that this part of Africa is free and stable,” he said.

Sidikou withheld names and nationalities of the deceased, saying the mission wanted to first notify their families.

Response is paramount

When asked how the militants had infiltrated the base, he said the fighters had disguised themselves with Somali army uniforms, but quickly added that how they entered the base was less important than what would be done about it.

"This is a wake-up call for all of us, precisely because we’re working with Somalis [who] sometimes use tactics such as pretending they are [the] soldiers with whom we work to build their capacity.”

He also said al-Shabab, which controlled most of Mogadishu before recently losing territory, is desperate to try any methods to show it is still relevant.

“So we have to adapt very, very quickly to the kind of warfare they’re imposing on us right now with the support of Somali institutions," Sikikou said. "If not, what will happen is instability will be the name of the game.”

VOA's Somali service and correspondent James Butty contributed to this report.

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