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Islamist Militia Claims Responsibility for Somalia Suicide Attack

In Somalia, the Islamist al-Shabab militia has claimed responsibility for a suicide attack that killed six guards at a government base in the capital Mogadishu. The group says the attacker was a Somali, denying earlier reports that the attack was carried out by a foreign fighter.

On Sunday, a vehicle exploded outside a government base near the port in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Six guards were killed in the attack, as well as at least one civilian.

A leader of the al-Shabab militia, Sheikh Hussein Ali Fidow, speaking to a news conference via telephone, said his group organized the attack.

The attack was a success, he said, and more attacks will follow in the coming days and weeks. He identified the attacker as a young Somali man.

Earlier reports suggested that the attacker may have been a foreigner.

Mogadishu has experienced its worst violence in months since insurgents form the Shabab and Hizbul Islam militias launched a new offensive on May 8th. The government says more than 200 people have been killed in the fighting, mostly civilians, and the United Nations says some 57,000 have been displaced from their homes.

The insurgents are trying to topple the moderate Islamist government led by president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed. President Ahmed, a former insurgent leader, took office in January after his faction signed a peace agreement with the government.

Some insurgent groups have given their support to the government. But the Shabab and Hizbul Islam militias have ruled out reconciliation. They say African Union peacekeepers must leave the country and they accuse the government of being obligated to American and Ethiopian interests.

The government says it foiled an attempted suicide attack a week ago. And in February, a suicide bomber killed 11 Burundian soldiers in an attack on a base for African Union peacekeepers. But suicide attacks still remain relatively rare, despite allegations that foreign Islamist extremists, some with ties to al-Qaida, are joining the insurgency.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said last week there are most likely foreign fighters in Somalia, though not as many as some reports have suggested. The United States has long said al-Shabab has ties to al-Qaida.

Carson also said that the government of Eritrea is providing weapons to the insurgents. The African Union last week called on the United Nations to impose sanctions on Eritrea.

Over 17,000 have been killed since early 2007 and over a million displaced by violence in Somalia.

According to the UN, almost half of Somalia's population requires humanitarian assistance.