The African Union has described as barbaric attacks by Somali Islamic hard line insurgent group al-Shabaab which left at least 11 peacekeepers dead and 15 seriously injured. The African Union said its troops (AMISOM) will continue peacekeeping efforts in Somalia, promising to impose sanctions on the Islamic insurgents. But al-Shabaab said Sunday's suicide attacks are the beginning of more attacks, vowing to take over the country and institute the sharia law. Sunday's attack was by far the deadliest against the AU peacekeepers in the Somali capital, Mogadishu since early 2007. It targeted a base in the south of the city. Ambassador Nicholas Bwakira is the African Union Special envoy to Somalia. He tells reporter Peter Clottey the AU will continue to support Somalia's new government to ensure peace and stability despite the attacks.
"My reaction is a reaction of condemnation in the strongest terms of this barbaric attack, which is undermining the efforts of the new government and new institutions which are being put in place in the last few weeks and days. These anti-peace forces have attacked the Burundi contingents Sunday and killed 11 of our soldiers and wounding 15 others who have been evacuated to Nairobi (Kenya's capital)," Ambassador Bwakira pointed out.
He said the Islamic insurgent group claimed responsibility for Sunday's suicide attacks.
"So far I think it is Sheikh Muktar Robow Abu Mansur who has claimed these attacks. And we are determined to continue our action. At the same time we are saying to the Somali people that these people (insurgents) would be brought to book. They would be subjected to sanctions, which is being decided by both IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority on Development) and AU (African Union)," he said.
Ambassador Bwakira sharply disagreed with suggestions that the refusal of the African union troops to forcefully repel insurgency attacks had emboldened the Islamists hardliners to continue their attacks.
"We are not in Somalia to fight; we are peacekeepers. We defend ourselves when we are attacked, but we are not going to do law enforcement. This is not our role. The new government of Somalia is prepared to put in place Somali security forces and the international community will help them to do that. Our role is to protect institutions and to facilitate a dialogue. This is what we have been doing for the last two y years and this is what we are determined to continue to do despite these attacks and despite these killings," Ambassador Bwakira noted.
He said the African Union reposes great confidence in the ability of the new Somali administration to ensure peace and stability in the country after 18 years of ineffective government.
"Now, a new government has been put in place; Sheikh Sharif has been inaugurated only three weeks ago. A new prime minister has been appointed on 13 February that is only nine days ago and the cabinet are being appointed this weekend. So, we have confidence, full confidence in the new institutions and we are confident that this new institution will make this security a priority. In fact Sheikh Sharif has indicated that security will be his top priority for the first six months of the government," he said.
Ambassador Bwakira said the African Union would continue to support the new administration to succeed.
"I can tell you that we have already provided support to the new government. President Sheikh Sharif has put a central security committee in Mogadishu 10 days ago. And we are working very closely with this security committee to put in place new forces about 2,700 people have already been selected. And we are going to support them so that they would be able to secure Mogadishu and the country," Ambassador Bwakira pointed out.
Described by Washington as a terrorist organization, al-Shabaab refuses to recognize the new Somali president and has vowed to take over the country and institute the sharia law. The group claims new President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed is a puppet put there to do the bidding of the west.
Sunday's attack was the second on
the Burundian base in the space of a few days. The previous attack reportedly
left one civilian dead and two wounded, but caused no casualties among the AU
troops. Until the latest attacks, the Somali capital had enjoyed a relative
lull in violence following the election on January 31 of Islamist cleric Sheikh
Sharif Sheikh Ahmed as president. The Isamic hard line al-shabaab spent the
last two years battling the Ethiopian forces who invaded Somalia in late 2006
but completed a pullout last month.