Somalia bombing sparks UN inquiry
THE United Nations yesterday began investigating whether suicide bombers used one of its vehicles to kill 17 African Union peacekeepers last week.
Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, said it was trying to trace a chassis number of one of the vehicles used in the attack. "We are trying to trace whether it's a UN vehicle," he said. The UN has numerous vehicles in the country, some of which have been stolen by rebels.
Somalia's president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed yesterday said the suicide attack, which followed the killing of a wanted al-Qaeda leader by US special forces, would not deter his government from pursuing stability and called on the world to offer more assistance to his people.
"It was shocking… it is irreligious and uncultured," he told a news conference at his hilltop palace on Saturday. "The international community has not fully helped Somalia. I urge the world to help the starving Somali people."
Sharif said his government had allowed the US forces to go after the slain al-Qaeda suspect.
Bowden said last week's attack on the peacekeepers' base next to Mogadishu airport, the main gateway into one of the world's poorest and most dangerous countries, would not weaken the UN's resolve to deliver aid to half the Somali population, but it could hamper operations on the ground.
Insurgents overran UN compounds in Jowhar and Baidoa in May and July, seizing aid supplies and vehicles.
The al-Shabaab rebel group, which Washington says is al-Qaeda's proxy in Somalia, controls much of the south and parts of the capital Mogadishu.
Together with Hizbul Islam, the group has been fighting government troops and African Union peacekeepers to impose its own strict version of sharia law throughout Somalia.
More than 18,000 Somalis have been killed since the start of 2007 and another 1.5 million driven from their homes. Some analysts fear Somalia could become the "next Afghanistan" and a host for terror groups.
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