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Al-Shabab Attacks Peacekeeping Hospital in Somalia

Alan Boswell | Nairobi 26 January 2010

Somali Islamist militant group al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for an attack on a hospital run by the African Union peacekeeping force. The explosion occurred near the peacekeeping base, killing at least five, including one soldier.

Sheikh Ali Muhamud Rage, the spokesperson for al-Shabab, says that the rebel group successfully attacked the base of the African Union peacekeeping mission, known as AMISOM.

He claimed that the overnight bombing near the Mogadishu airport was in response to the deaths of innocent civilians caused by the AMISOM forces.

An AMISOM official, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, told VOA that three Somali patients and one Ugandan peacekeeper were killed in the blast. He added that eight were injured, half civilians and half soldiers.

Reports conflict as to whether the attack was executed through a suicide bomber or a mortar blast, and some place the casualty figure as high as seven dead.

AMISOM spokesperson Major Barigye Bahuko says that the detonation took place within the outpatient department of the hospital.

"It was not even an explosion; it was just a small blast," Bahuko said. "A blast that occurred where the Somalis were congregating waiting for treatment ended up by killing very many Somalis unfortunately."

Al-Shabab, a group thought to have links to al-Qaida, is waging an intense insurgency against the Western-backed Mogadishu government, propped up by the AU peacekeeping mission staffed with Ugandan and Burundian forces.

The rebels fight under an ultra-conservative Islamic ideology, imposing Sharia law under the territory they control and referring to their enemies as infidels. They now control most of southern and some of central Somalia, including much of Mogadishu.

The attempted Christmas-day attack on a U.S. airliner has increased the international attention given to the Horn of African Islamists. The Nigerian attacker was trained in nearby Yemen, and though no proven link exists between the two countries' respective Islamist rebellions, analysts are now expressing concern that the region could become the new front in the global fight against militant radical Islam.

In September al-Shabab claimed responsibility for twin suicide blasts within the AMISOM base disrupted a high-profile meeting between top peacekeeping brass and Somali government officials. The attack killed at least 17 people, including the top Burundian general stationed in the country.

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