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Africa
Al-Shabab threatens AU peacekeepers
Group says Mogadishu will be turned into 'graveyard' for peacekeeping reinforcements.
Last Modified: 30 Jul 2010 05:07 GMT
Thousands of new African Union troops will be sent to Somalia to tackle al-Shabab fighters [EPA]

The armed group leading the fight against Somalia's beleagured transitional government has warned that it will turn Mogadishu into a "graveyard" for extra African Union troops sent to the country.

Al-Shabab, which has been accused of links to al-Qaeda, warned that a decision earlier this week to send extra troops to the Horn of Africa nation would only strengthen their resolve to overthrow the government.

"The extra troops they said are planning to send here will not be different from those they deployed before. By the will of Allah, Mogadishu will be their graveyard, while their families will cry back home," Ali Mahamud Rage, the group's spokesman, said on Thursday.

"(Somalia transitional) government initially failed to convince its infidel masters to boost their military presence in Somalia, and now that they are claiming to be sending more troops to Mogadishu, it will only intensify the holy war against them," he said.

The African Union held a three-day summit in Kampala earlier this week where it agreed to boost its peacekeeping force by sending another 4,000 troops, saying it was important to improve security in Somalia and in surrounding countries.

Broadening reach

The decision came after al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a double bombing in Kampala that left 76 people dead on July 11, which it said was punishment for Uganda's lead role in the peacekeeping force.

The attack, the first launched by al-Shabab outside of Somalia, demonstrated the group's increasing influence and broadening reach ahead of the AU summit.  

The current 6000-strong AU force in Somalia has been engaged in fierce fighting with al-Shabab, but has been restricted to retaliatory fire by the mandate it has been operating under.

Human rights groups warn that if the troops are allowed to expand their operations, civilians in Somalia will be further exposed to violence. Thousands have been killed in crossfire this year alone as battles between government troops and al-Shabab fighters have raged in the streets of Mogadishu.

Somalia has been wracked by conflict for decades, with the latest bout of fighting erupting after Ethiopean troops, operating with US approval, invaded and overthrew the Union of Islamic Courts, whose rule had brought a period of relative stability to the troubled country.   

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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