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AU Mourns Peacekeeping Commander Killed in Somali Rebel Attack

The African Union has strongly condemned a suicide bomb attack in Somalia that killed at least nine AU peacekeepers, including the mission's deputy commander. An Islamic extremist group said it carried out the attack at the Mogadishu airport to avenge the death of one of its leaders.

African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping paid tribute to the fallen peacekeepers during a meeting with reporters. He described the attackers as criminal and terrorist elements determined to undermine the progress made in recent months in finding a lasting solution to nearly two decades of war in Somalia.

"We are condemning strongly this attack [perpetrated] against our elements bringing peace and security to Somalia," he said. "This attack will not affect the determination of the African Union to do all the necessary efforts to bring back peace in Somalia."

A further statement issued later called the attack testimony to the threat posed by criminal and terrorist elements and their backers, both within and outside Somalia.

AU officials say the dead included Burundian Major General Juvenal Niyoyunguruza, deputy commander of the 5,000 strong peacekeeping force known as AMISOM. The top commander, Ugandan General Nathan Mugisha was among the injured.

Witnesses say the explosives were apparently concealed in two trucks bearing United Nations markings that were allowed into the peacekeepers' compound at the Mogadishu airport.  

The hardline Islamist al-Shabab rebel group claimed responsibility. A rebel spokesman said the attack was in retaliation for a U.S. military operation that killed an al-Qaida linked terror suspect Monday in southern Somalia.

U.S. officials say the suspect had been wanted by the FBI for the 2002 terrorist bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

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