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Africa
Shabab threatens Uganda and Burundi
Somali group vows attack after blaming two nations' peacekeepers for civilian deaths.
Last Modified: 23 Oct 2009 12:47 GMT
Relief agencies say Somalia has become a haven for groups plotting to launch regionwide attacks [AFP]

Somalia's al-Shabab fighters have said they will attack the capitals of Burundi and Uganda in revenge for rocket attacks by peacekeepers from the two countries.

The threat follows the killing on Thursday of at least 30 people in Mogadishu, the capital, by Amisom, the African Union's peacekeeping force to which Uganda and Burundi contribute troops.

Speaking late on Thursday, Sheikh Ali Mohamed Hussein, a senior al-Shabab commander, said: "We shall make their people cry. We'll attack Bujumbura and Kampala ... We will move our fighting to those two cities and we shall destroy them."

Burundi and Uganda have each 2,500 peacekeepers for Amisom.

Witnesses said Amisom fired at least 35 rockets into the capital's Bakara market area on Thursday after al-Shabab fighters there launched mortar shells at the aircraft of Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the Somali president, as he left the airport for a summit in Uganda.

Amisom denial

Major Barigye Ba-hoku, Amisom's spokesman in Mogadishu, denied on Friday that the AU soldiers had fired any artillery and blamed Thursday's civilian deaths on bombs of fighters.

In depth


 Video: Foreign fighters 'invade' Somalia
 Profile: Sharif Ahmed
Timeline: Somalia
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A long road to stability
Al-Shabab: Somali fighters undeterred
 Somalia at a crossroads
 Somaliland: Africa's isolated state
 Riz Khan: The vanishing Somalis

"We did not shell any place ... We are investigating and the Somali government is investigating too," he told the Reuters news agency.
   
"Al-Shabab wants to drag us into their war ... they shell us and then they also shell Bakara, then they tell people there it was Amison who killed civilians. We know their tactics. "
   
The US accuses al-Shabab, which wants to topple Ahmed's fragile UN-backed administration and impose its own strict verison of Islamic law across the country, of being al-Qaeda's proxy in the failed Horn of Africa state.

About 19,000 civilians have been killed in fighting since the start of 2007 while another 1.5 million have been forced out of their homes.
    
Somalia, ravaged by drought, has become a safe haven for fighters, including foreign ones, who use it to plot attacks across the region and beyond, Western aid agencies say.
   
Thursday's clashes were some of the heaviest to rock Mogadishu for weeks, and they underlined the difficulties facing the 5,000-strong AU mission.

Hearts and minds

Amisom has had trouble securing the city's airport, sea port and the presidential palace, although it has won some hearts and minds by giving residents clean water and free medical treatment.

Its soldiers come under near-daily attacks from roadside bombs and rebel artillery.

Last month al-Shabab hit Amisom's headquarters with a twin suicide car bombing that killed 17 peacekeepers, including the Burundian deputy force commander.
   
"We do not take their threats lightly," Ba-hoku said. "Any attempt to attack Burundi or Uganda will be met with decisive action and will be defeated

" If we get enough troops here, we can move into other regions and bring peace to all of Somalia."

Several African nations had committed to send troops to reinforce Amisom but have so far failed to do so, some saying in private that they are put off by the incessant violence.

Source:
Agencies
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