A top official of the African Union’s Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has dismissed the allegation that peacekeepers are to blame for the recent mosque bombing that killed dozens in the capital, Mogadishu.
Major Barigye Ba-Huko, AMISOM’s spokesman, said hard line insurgents, including al-Shabab, started suicide bombings to terrorize ordinary Somalis and topple President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s internationally backed Transitional Federal Government.
“As everyone knows the al-Shabab manufactured and introduced suicide bombings in Somalia. So, all the times that the conflicts in Somalia have been going on, there had never been any time of that warfare. It’s not even the culture of the Somalis,” he said.
Last week’s mosque bombing killed at least 32 and injured several others.
Sheikh Fuad Mohamed Shongole, a leading member of the hard-line insurgent group al-Shabab, blamed AMISOM for the attack claiming he was the target of the bombing.
Sheikh Shongole, who was injured during the mosque attack, reportedly spoke on a local Somali radio station and blamed foreign security firms working for AMISOM for the attack.
But, AMISOM’s spokesman Ba-Huko denied the accusation.
“It is also known that the area they are talking about is very close to Bakara Market. And, it is known in Mogadishu that Bakara Market is, virtually speaking, a no-go area for anyone else. It is an exclusive area for them. So, one would wonder how AMISOM managed to get to get into that place. So, I think it is just a question of desperate (desperation) on their part,” Ba-Huko said.
In a statement following the bombing, Somali Cause, a non-governmental action group, condemned the attack saying the ongoing conflict between the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) forces and insurgent groups has caused heavy casualties and the displacement of thousands of civilians mainly women, children and the elderly
Critics, including insurgent groups, have often accused AMISOM of shelling civilian areas indiscriminately resulting in heavy civilian casualties and huge destruction of property - - a charge the African Union Mission denies.
Ba-Huko said AMISOM is not in the business of killing unarmed civilians.
“We would have no reason as AMISOM to use unconventional means. We must sustain the support of the people. I’m saying you cannot (kill) the same people…whom you are trying to win over. We provide a lot of humanitarian assistance to these Somalis and we have no reason whatsoever to go into a mosque and plant there an IED (Improvised Explosive device),” Ba-Huko said.
He said the African Union Mission is working closely with President Ahmed’s government to protect unarmed civilians.