Africa

UN condemns 'despicable' al-Shabab attack in Somalia

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Media captionFootage shows the aftermath of the attack on the UN office in Mogadishu

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has expressed outrage over a "despicable" attack by Islamists on a UN office in Somalia which killed 15 people.

He also stressed the UN "would not be deterred from delivering its mandate" in Somalia, Mr Ban's spokesman said.

The attackers detonated a car bomb outside the UN mission in the capital Mogadishu, then engaged security forces in a fierce gun-battle.

The al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab later said it was behind the attack.

It had targeted the UN because of its "long, inglorious record of spreading nothing but poverty, dependency and disbelief", al-Shabab said on its Twitter account.

This is the first time the UN offices have been attacked since it recently relaunched its mission in Somalia.

'Act of desperation'

Mr Ban was "deeply concerned and outraged by the despicable attack" on the UN Development Programme office, his spokesman Martin Nesirky said.

The raid was also condemned by the 15-member UN Security Council, which reiterated its "determination to combat all forms of terrorism".

UN envoy to Somalia, Nicholas Kay, who was not hurt in the attack, told the BBC the world body would continue its mission in helping Somalia build peace and development.

He said Somalia had "turned a corner" after decades of conflict, and al-Shabab attacks like the one of Wednesday were "acts of desperation".

"At this stage our firm intent is to stick to the mission and not abandon Somalia," he said.

He added that one UNDP international staff member, three contractors working for a South African company and four Somali guards were killed in the attack.

All seven al-Shabab gunmen died in the raid and officials said pro-government forces later secured the compound.

The UN has only recently expanded its operations in Mogadishu after years when its Somalia mission was based in neighbouring Kenya because of security fears.

The UNDP office is next to the heavily fortified airport in southern Mogadishu.

Image caption The security forces arrived at the scene soon after the explosion. The UNDP compound is next to the airport where the AU forces have a base.
Image caption A vehicle was blown up in front of the blue gates of the UNDP's office...
Image caption Most residents fled the area as gunfire could be heard from inside the compound...
Image caption Several people outside were injured in the suicide explosion. Exact details of casualties are not known; al-Shabab said it had killed some foreigners...
Image caption The fighting inside the UNDP complex went on for well over an hour.

Somali Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon Saaid praised the speed of the security forces' response.

"Somali and Amisom security forces responded immediately to the situation after the initial explosion and have brought the situation under control. Sadly we must wait to hear the full details and confirmation of any casualties," he said in a statement.

"All our thoughts and prayers are with our UN colleagues today. But al-Shabab will not derail the peace process. They will not stop our recovery. Violence will not win."

Al-Shabab spokesman Ali Dheere said the UN had been targeted because it was "enemy number one of the Somali people".

He accused it of "stealing" Somalia's resources, especially its fishing stock, distributing expired aid food and "corrupting" the nation's culture.

Al-Shabab, which had been in control of parts of Mogadishu for more than two years, withdrew in August 2011 under pressure from pro-government forces, but continues to launch occasional suicide attacks in the city.

It has also been pushed out of other cities, but still remains in control of smaller towns and large swathes of the countryside in central and southern Somalia.

The improving security situation has prompted the return of Somalis from the diaspora and allowed UN agencies and foreign embassies to return to the country.

Some 18,000 AU troops are in the country supporting the government of President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud who was elected by MPs last September.

His administration is the first one in more than two decades to be recognised by the US and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

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