Militants linked to al Qaeda have caused multiple deaths after breaking into the United Nations’ main compound in the Somalian capital, Mogadishu. The rebel group al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.
Islamist rebel gunmen were reported to have detonated explosives rigged inside a pick-up truck at the gates of the United Nations Development Program base, before breaching the barriers to the compound Wednesday.
A final death toll was not immediately available, although Somali officials said at least five of that country's civilians had been killed, along with seven of the attackers.
A spokeswoman from the South African state defense equipment manufacturer Denel confirmed early reports that two South African contractors were also among the dead.
In addition, one unnamed UN official said that four UN staff members had also been killed, including three foreigners.
The African Union peacekeeping force, which sent soldiers and armored vehicles to the site, claimed that the compound had been retaken from the attackers after a gunfight that lasted more than 90 minutes.
'A merchant of death'
The rebel group al Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, calling the UN a "merchant of death and a satanic force of evil." On its Twitter feed, al Shabab said the organization had "a long inglorious record of spreading nothing but poverty, dependency and disbelief."
The assault was the first of any note against a UN facility by al Shabab, since the Islamist group was forced out of Mogadishu some two years ago in fighting with African Union and Somali government forces.
More than a million Somalis are estimated to be living in humanitarian emergency or crisis conditions, according to the UN. The organization has only recently begun to build a physical presence with office buildings and international staff, following a general improvement in the security situation.
rc/dr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)