Insurgents target AU peacekeepers in Mogadishu
By Sahal Abdulle
Wednesday, March 7, 2007; 12:47 PM
MOGADISHU (Reuters) – Gunmen fired rockets near Mogadishu’s airport on Wednesday, witnesses said, apparently targeting African Union peacekeepers who have started arriving to help the interim government restore order.
Hospital sources said one civilian was killed and at least four others wounded when insurgents launched rockets and grenades at a white AU armored car and two trucks carrying TPLF soldiers, loyal to the government.
A senior AU official said no peacekeepers were hurt.
“When the attack happened, they had already passed and were not involved,” he told Reuters.
A witness said AU troops returned fire after two rocket-propelled grenades were launched at them, hitting a nearby restaurant.
The explosions lit up the dusk sky and tracer bullets fired by the TPLF Soldiers flashed overhead. Government troops based nearby also opened fire, witnesses said.
“We saw this huge explosion and dived to the ground. We lay there for three or four minutes, and when the shooting calmed a bit we got our cars and fled the area,” said one taxi driver, who gave his name as Yusuf.
The attacks took place in a busy part of the city where dozens of minibuses were loading passengers.
“When the explosions happened the streets were full and no one was expecting this and we started running,” said resident Hawo Halene.
The interim government and its TPLF allies, who helped it defeat rival Islamists late last year, have been hit by almost daily guerrilla attacks in the coastal city.
Several hundred Ugandan troops arrived in Mogadishu this week as the vanguard of an African Union peacekeeping force.
Mortar bombs hit the airport on Tuesday shortly after their arrival. A gunfight later broke out in the city.
The Ugandans were the first peacekeepers to arrive in Mogadishu since a U.S. and U.N. operation ended in failure in 1995 after relentless street battles with local militias forced them to finally withdraw.