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Al-Shabaab fighters hit Mogadishu airport, 5 dead

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • Al-Shabaab fighters have intensified attacks during Ramadan
  • Somalia's government has warned of a final surge of violence
  • Fighting has forced 200,000 civilians to flee this year, the U.N. says

(CNN) -- Suicide bombers in cars disguised as government vehicles slammed into the main gate at Somalia's main airport Thursday, killing two Ugandan peacekeepers and at least three civilians, Somali and African Union officials said Thursday.

Five bombers were killed in the attacks, and three other peacekeepers were wounded, Maj. Berigye Bohuko, a spokesman for the African Union peackeeping mission AMISOM, told CNN.

"There were two vehicles and they tried to force their way through at our first checkpoint near the airport, but they failed in doing so and exploded there," Bohuko said in a telephone interview from the checkpoint where the attack occurred.

Mogadishu's Aden Ade airport is under the control of Somalia's U.N.-backed transitional government, but the facility is under constant attack by fighters from the Al-Shabaab guerrilla movement, an Islamic militant group with ties to al Qaeda.

Two of the bombers wore the uniforms of troops from the transitional government and ran shooting from the vehicles toward the airport terminal, AMISOM officials said. Both were stopped and blew themselves up about 200 meters (650 feet) from the terminal.

"The airport is a very high-profile target and we always expect an attempt of sabotage here," AMISOM said in a statement on the attacks. "This attack was in vain and will not deter us from our mission."

The attack came a day after Somalia's transitional government issued a statement warning that Al-Shabaab may stage a final surge of attacks at the end of Ramadan. Al-Shabaab has intensified its attacks during the Islamic holy month, with more than 230 civilians killed in battles between government troops and Al-Shabaab fighters in the past two weeks, the U.N. refugee agency reported.

At least 400 people have been wounded and 23,000 displaced in the latest violence, the agency said Tuesday. So far this year, more than 200,000 civilians are believed to have fled their homes in the capital, it said.

"Al-Shabaab has ignored the President's plea to allow the people of Mogadishu to celebrate the holy month of Ramadan in peace," the government said. "They have deliberately triggered violence across the city, killing and injuring civilians and soldiers alike. They offer nothing but terror, intimidation and the defiling of our culture."

The U.N. special representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, and officials from the African Union and the regional Intergovernmental Authority on Development were in Mogadishu for a meeting with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed when the attack occurred. The officials condemned what they called a "heinous act of terrorism" staged on the eve of the Eid al-Fitr, "a solemn day of peace, compassion and mercy" that marks the last night of the Islamic holy month.

"The three envoys express their heartfelt condolences to the people, the government of Uganda and the members of the bereaved families," Mahiga, Amb. Boubacar Diarra of the African Union and IGAD facilitator Kipruto arap Kirwa said in a joint statement. The officials "call on all Somalis to reject violence and use peaceful means in order to restore peace, security and stability to their country."

Ugandan troops make up the bulk of the AMISOM force and are under frequent attack by Al-Shabaab. In addition, Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the July suicide bombings in the Ugandan capital Kampala that killed 76 people at restaurants where fans gathered to watch the final match of the World Cup.

Somalia has not had an operational government since 1991, when then-President Mohamed Siad Barre's military junta was overthrown. The country was ranked in 2009 and 2010 as the worst failed state in the world, according to Foreign Policy magazine's annual index. Chad and Sudan, respectively, round out the top three failed states.