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Days after U.S. Special Forces killed a wanted Al Qaeda terrorist in Somalia’s south, Islamist militants have made a deadly strike right into the heart of the African Union peacekeepers’ base in Mogadishu.
The double suicide bombing killed at least 14 AU soldiers stationed there to keep a peace that does not exist. The dead included Major General Juvenal Niyonguruza, the Burundian deputy commander.
At least 15 others — including the force’s Ugandan commander Nathan Mugisha — were wounded when two Land Cruisers painted in United Nations insignia were waved through security at the compound and blew themselves up.
The 5,000-strong AU force is the only thing that stands between Al Shabaab fighters and the weak Western-backed government of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed.
The timing and style of the attack were not chance. On Monday the U.S. sent in helicopter gunships to take out a wanted terrorist with Al Qaeda links. Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan was killed and his body whisked away for identification in an operation that marked the first time U.S. troops had stood on Somali ground since the disastrous Black Hawk Down battle of 1993.
Today Al Shabaab responded with deadly efficiency and using a battle technique — suicide bombing — analysts say were taught by Al Qaeda operatives.
“We took revenge on the enemy and avenged for our brother Saleh Ali Nabhan who was killed by infidels," said an Al Shabaab spokesman.
The death count is likely to rise but already outstrips that caused by a previous suicide attack in February in which 11 AU soldiers were killed.
Al Shabaab had vowed a backlash, and this was it. Or at least the start.