Conflicting reports as Al-Shabaab says it killed 80 AU troops in blast

Sunday October 30 2011

Abdiwahab Haji | AFP Somalia government soldiers secure the scene of a suicide attack that killed at least three people on October 18, 2011 in Somalia’s wartorn capital, Mogadishu.

Abdiwahab Haji | AFP Somalia government soldiers secure the scene of a suicide attack that killed at least three people on October 18, 2011 in Somalia’s wartorn capital, Mogadishu.  

By ABDULKADIR KHALIF and TABU BUTAGIRA NATION Correspondents and Agencies

Mogadishu, Sunday         

Two Al-Shabaab suicide bombers blew themselves up yesterday at an Amisom base in Mogadishu and conflicting accounts indicate anywhere between three and 80 Ugandan soldiers were killed.

Following the attack, Al-Shabaab said today an American citizen of Somali origin was one of the two suicide bombers behind the attack.

Several pro-Al-Shabaab radio stations broadcast what they said were the last words of the attacker named as Abdusalam al-Muhajir who said that he “wanted to die as a martyr” after spending the last two years fighting alongside the Islamist rebels.

“I am an American citizen who grew up in the United States after my parents took me there at the age of two,” he said in the message which was broadcast a day after the attack on an African Union base in the capital.

Sheikh Mohamed Ibrahim, a Al-Shabaab spokesman, said: “Two young and brave mujahideen warriors, one who came from the United States, led the holy attack that killed many enemies yesterday.”

Late on Saturday, the militant group, which withdrew from the Somali capital in August, leaving a queasy security situation, claimed in a press statement that “the Mujahideen stormed an Amisom compound, killing 80 Ugandan soldiers.”

Uganda army Commander, Lt Gen Katumba Wamala, last night confirmed that a lunch-hour suicide attack on AU troops took place but but said only three soldiers perished and two were seriously injured.

“Eighty soldiers dead; are they nsenene (grasshoppers)?” Gen Katumba asked when informed of the Al-Shabaab claims.

Military spokesman Felix Kulayigye said preliminary details show three soldiers died and an equal number injured; two seriously.

“Those injured have been flown for treatment to Nairobi Hospital,” Col Kulayigye said. “An investigation is being carried out to know exactly how this attack happened.”

UPDF declined to name the dead, and or injured, soldiers saying it needs to first notify their relatives.

There were varied claims about fatality figures. Mr Wafula Wamunyinyi, African Union deputy Special Representative in Mogadishu said by telephone that four Amisom soldiers were killed.

He said: “They approached the frontline and then exploded their bombs. Four of the Amison soldiers died on the spot and seven were injured.”

The AU in a press statement said the midday attack was executed by armed terrorists, including two suicide bombers disguised as Somali Army troops, who attempted to recapture an area near German Steel Factory which they lost two months ago.

It is understood the suicide bombing triggered heavy fighting for control of the gateway to Industrial Road, an important city artery, which marks Mogadishu’s northern border.

Amisom troops repulsed the militants, AU said.

Some sources in the area indicated that as soon as the explosions inside the compound occurred, more militants in army uniforms appeared from nearby and immediately jumped in commandos’ styles over the perimeter wall.

Al-Shabaab claimed that heavy fighting and the preceding suicide blasts caused 100 deaths.