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UN Security Council condemns Somali suicide attack

By Bettina Peter, CNN
Al Shabaab fighters have been battling Somalia's government forces in the capital, Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab fighters have been battling Somalia's government forces in the capital, Mogadishu.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • At least six members of parliament are among the dead
  • Militants are fighting government troops backed by African Union forces
  • The death toll is rising in fighting that began Monday
  • Residents in the the capital, Mogadishu, are getting caught in the crossfire
RELATED TOPICS
  • Somalia
  • Mogadishu
  • Terrorism
  • War and Conflict

United Nations (CNN) -- The United Nations Security Council strongly condemned the Somalia suicide bombing that took the lives of at least 33 people on Tuesday. Six members of the Somali Parliament died in the attack and three members were injured, a government spokesperson said.

The Security Council called for the attackers "to be brought swiftly to justice." The council condemnation was in the form of a statement to the press. It requires the consensus of all members but is not as forceful as a presidential statement or legally binding as a resolution.

The president of the Security Council, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, spoke of "dramatic, tragic developments in Mogadishu" and passed on the Security Council's condolences to the families of the victims and the Somali government.

Two men stormed the Muna hotel in Somalia's capital Mogadishu and detonated explosives, officials reported. The Islamist rebel group Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the bloodshed.

It is not the group's first attack against the transitional government of Somalia and the African Union troops that try to protect the government. Al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Dhere said his group would not stop fighting until the AU peacekeeping troops leave Somalia.

The Security Council said it stands strongly behind the transitional government of Somalia and supports the AU peacekeeping mission, known as AMISOM. Churkin emphasized the Security Council's "continued appreciation" for the work of the African Union troops sent from Uganda and Burundi.

In light of ongoing fighting in Mogadishu, the Security Council highlighted "the need to continue strengthening Somali security institutions." Churkin also pointed to "the importance of an inclusive dialogue in the peace process".

Journalists said the attackers committed suicide after government security forces surrounded the Muna Hotel, located near the presidential palace.

"Just before 11 a.m. two attackers, a gunman and a suicide bomber, gained access to a hotel in Mogadishu," according to Maj. Barigye Ba Hoku, spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia.

The assault on the hotel came as the death toll rose from some of the fiercest fighting in Somalia's capital in months.

An ambulance group reported having difficulty reaching the wounded, the director of that service has said.

Pitched battles between government forces and Al Shabaab militiamen have escalated in Mogadishu this week, leaving injured residents literally caught in the crossfire.

"There are 11 students trapped in a school right now," Ali Muse, head of Life Line Africa, a local Somali charity running the country's only private ambulance service, said Tuesday. "It is too dangerous for our ambulances to collect them."

Muse said the gunbattles were centered in Bakara Market, where many women live and hawk their goods to locals. The area is controlled by Al Shabaab.

"Many women have been killed," Muse said, adding that it is a "very crowded area."

"We are launching a final war to terminate the invading infidels in Mogadishu and all forces from the Islamic provinces are going to take part and we will wipe out the enemies out of Mogadishu," Sheikh Ali said on Monday.

The fighting has been a persistent and overwhelming problem for civilians.

"The situation in Mogadishu -- and Somalia, if it is not checked -- it is likely to escalate and get more complicated and will be difficult to resolve," Wafula Wamunyinyi, the deputy special representative of the chairperson of the African Union Commission for Somalia, said at a press conference in Nairobi on Monday.

"We have taken measures to ensure that we control the issue of civilian casualties," he continued. "We are working on the training for all of our peacekeepers and we are giving priority for protection of civilians."

Wamunyinyi said the international community needs to take a close look at Somalia's problems, especially in light of the July terrorist attack in Kampala, Uganda, that left 76 dead. Al Shabaab, which controls much of southern Somalia, claimed responsibility for the act.

"Somalia needs to be taken more seriously now, rather than later," he said. "The issue of Somalia has not received the seriousness that it has deserved, so we want to appeal to encourage that we need to support the peace process."

Separately, Madina Hospital in south Mogadishu said it had received more than 100 wounded people in Monday's fighting alone.

Somalia was ranked in 2010 as the worst failed state in the world, according to Foreign Policy magazine's annual index of such nations. Chad and Sudan, respectively, round out the top three failed states.

CNN's Les Neuhaus, David McKenzie and journalist Mohamed Amiin Adow contributed to this report