A day after a brazen suicide attack in the African Union peacekeeper base in Mogadishu, Somali rebel Islamic group al-Shabab threatens neighboring Djibouti that a similar fate awaits its troops should they be sent to Somalia. The attack Thursday killed 21.
The spokesman for the radical Islamist militant group al-Shabab, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, warned the government of Djibouti against sending any forces to Somalia as part of the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM.
He says that their troops should expect the same reception given to the Ugandan and Burundian soldiers killed Thursday if they too enter the country. Rage asserts that his group is already angered by the access to Djibouti's airports and seaports given to foreign governments.
Earlier this month the Djibouti ambassador to the U.S. told VOA's Somali service that it would be sending troops to Somalia to serve in AMISOM, though the ambassador declined to say how many or when.
The AMISOM spokesman in Nairobi has confirmed to VOA that the suicide bombings Thursday successfully attacked a senior meeting between AMISOM's military leadership and officials of the Western-backed transitional federal government.
Seventeen peacekeepers were killed as well as four Somali civilians, who were inside the military base for the meeting. The spokesman for the prime minister of Somalia told reporters Friday that the high-level government officials were killed and wounded in the attack.
Among the dead in the blasts was deputy commander of the AMISOM forces and the top Burundian officer in Somalia, General Juvenal Niyoyunguruza. The head general, a Ugandan, was wounded.
Subsequent mortar attacks in the capital city later Wednesday reportedly killed at least 19 civilians.
The two vehicles used by the suicide attackers carried the United Nations logo on their sides. The Somali government claims that the vehicles were likely two of eight stolen U.N. cars believed to have fallen in the hands of the Islamic rebels.
AMISOM says that the two vehicles were allowed in to the compound because they were marked U.N. cars. Once inside, one of the cars flew to the nearby petrol station and blew up, and the other one exploded inside the base near the Mogadishu airport.
The United Nations was not part of the high level meeting.
The successful execution of such a boldly planned strike is a clear blow to the government led by President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, which has lost significant ground to the Islamic opposition fighters. It is unclear whether al-Shabab specifically planned the attack with full knowledge of the meeting taking place.
Many on the government side used to fight side-by-side with current rebel fighters as part of the Islamic insurgency against Ethiopia's 2006 invasion, and weaponry is believed to pass easily through the government army's hands to the opposition fighters.
Djibouti, a former French colony, is 60 percent made up of ethnic Somalis and is heavily Muslim. The country hosted the peace meetings that eventually led to the formation of the transitional government and the election of President Sharif, a former leader of the Islamic insurgency, earlier this year.
A group of Islamic rebels, including al-Shabab, have rejected the U.N.-backed deal and holds that the government is illegitimate. The opposition fighters now control most of Mogadishu as well as much of the country.
The AMISOM forces in Somalia are composed of about 5,000 Ugandan and Burundian troops.