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Page last updated at 19:51 GMT, Sunday, 22 February 2009

AU base in Mogadishu attacked


Insurgents in Somalia have attacked a military base in Mogadishu used by African Union peacekeepers, killing at least 11 soldiers from Burundi.

The Islamist militant group al-Shabab said two of its members had carried out a suicide car bomb attack on the base.

The AU confirmed that 11 Burundian troops had died and 15 others had been seriously injured.

The AU's 3,500 Burundian and Ugandan peacekeepers are now the only foreign troops in Mogadishu.

Ethiopian troops, which had had been in the country since 2006 to support Somalia's fragile transitional government, pulled out at the end of January.

A UN-brokered peace deal between Somalia's transitional government and a moderate Islamist opposition group saw Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed elected president in January.

Al-Shabab has pledged to carry on with its armed struggle against the peacekeepers.

Although detailed reports of Sunday's attacks were scarce, Reuters news agency said witnesses reported seeing a car speeding towards the gate of the base, as well as a loud explosion.

The African Union said the peacekeepers' base had been under continual mortar attack since 17 February, with the bombardments reaching an "unprecedented level" on Sunday.

An AU statement condemned the attack in the strongest possible terms, saying the bombers had a "complete disregard" for the aspirations of the Somali people and the interests of the country.

The AU's top diplomat, Jean Ping, called for continued international support for the transitional government and for the African Union in order to bring reconciliation and "lasting peace" to the country, the statement said.

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