Death toll rises after attacks in Somalia


SOMALIA:ISLAMIST INSURGENTS have launched a series of deadly attacks on African peacekeepers in the Somali capital as they made good on their promise of increased bloodshed during the holy month of Ramadan.

Witnesses said at least 11 civilians were killed after gunmen attacked an African Union (AU)base on Tuesday. Peacekeepers responded with tank and artillery fire.

In all, some 42 people are believed to have died during a fresh round of violence in Mogadishu this week as peacekeepers find themselves targeted by Islamist groups which are growing in confidence.

The Mujahideens of Raskamboni said it was responsible for the attack. "It was a retaliatory attack against the African forces and it was the heaviest ever waged against them," the group's spokesman said.

Analysts believe it is an attempt to deter any further international interference in Somalia, where 3,000 African troops have struggled to make any difference so far.

It has made for a bloody month, even by Somalia's warped standards. Fartun Moalim Yusuf, whose sister was among the fatalities, said: "It was a horrible moment. We escaped from our house to hide in a concrete building nearby but unfortunately that did not save her. She was torn to pieces with five other civilians."

Insurgents have registered a string of recent successes against a feeble interim government and their Ethiopian backers. In recent weeks, they have changed tactics, replacing their usual hit-and-run strikes with sustained pressure.

Somalia has been ravaged by conflict since 1991 when the government of Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted.

The AU troops were deployed in March 2007 to help president Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed - whose government is backed with money from the European Commission - regain control of the country.

However, Islamist groups say they will not lay down their arms until Ethiopian troops leave. The result is a deepening humanitarian crisis.

Years of recurrent drought and two decades of conflict have left more than three million people in desperate need of aid. At the same time, insecurity and piracy at sea have hampered the delivery of food. A million people are refugees inside their own country.

UN-sponsored peace talks in Djibouti have made little difference. Leaders of armed militias have boycotted negotiations.