Somalia: Al-Shabaab militants claim three Britons dead after bomb attack on UN compound

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Twenty killed during gun battle with Somali militants as staff try to flee to secure bunker

Nairobi

The United Nations' gradual, peaceful return to Somalia was shattered this morning as a truck full of explosives was detonated at the front gates of its compound in the capital, Mogadishu.

Less than a month after declaring the end of the transition period in the East African country and reinforcing its mission, the UN came under sustained attack from Islamist militants al-Shabaab.

After an explosion, seven gunmen, from what the al-Qa'ida affiliate calls its "martyrdom brigade", ran into the compound. A battle lasting more than an hour ensued, as African Union peacekeepers and security guards fought the militants. At least 20 people were killed, including the seven terrorists and four of the security forces. Most of the UN staff inside found shelter in a secure bunker within the building, but not everyone made it.

"There was not very much time to get into the safe area," said UN spokesman Ben Parker, who warned there may be news of more casualties.

The initial blast sprayed shrapnel and masonry across a busy street, killing at least five civilians and wounding many more. Inside the compound, reports suggested that two South African de-mining experts, as well as a Kenyan and a Somali member of UN staff were among at least 20 dead. A Somali government official said all seven attackers had been killed.

Throughout the assault, a Twitter account purporting to represent the Somali militants gave live commentary, claiming that the attackers had killed 16 UN workers, including three Britons, two Kenyans and a South African. The Foreign Office is investigating reports of British casualties.

Survivors were evacuated to the Amisom military base only a few metres away, which is the closest that Mogadishu has to a green zone.

The attack comes after a prolonged period of optimism during which Britain reopened its embassy in Mogadishu and the new President, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, was fêted at a London donors conference in May.

Earlier this month the UN declared the end of a troubled eight-year political transition in Somalia and appointed former British ambassador, Nick Kay, as special envoy. Speaking last night, he said that the attack would not prompt the organisation to withdraw from the nation: "The UN is here to help and we are here to stay."

Mr Kay condemned the attack on the humanitarian and development workers: "This was an act of blatant terrorism and a desperate attempt to knock Somalia off its path of recovery and peace-building," he said. President Mohamud called al-Shabaab a "disgrace" to Somalia last night but insisted his country had "turned a corner".

Much has been made of the first Somali President to be elected since the collapse of the central government and the descent into civil war in 1991. That conflict was sustained by stockpiles of arms left over from the Cold War and topped up by various foreign governments including the US, which backed the corrupt and ineffective Transitional Federal Government that was dismantled last year.

However, the new Somali leader was selected, not elected. He was chosen by a new tranche of unelected MPs after days of clan-based political horse-trading in a deeply flawed process last September. The fact that the former university dean and civil rights activist was an improvement on his predecessor, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, was an almost accidental outcome.

The security gains made since al-Shabaab left Mogadishu at the height of a terrible famine two years ago are constantly threatened. Last month a car bomb was rammed into a convoy of Qatari officials travelling with Somalia's Interior Minister.

Neither the minister nor the visitors were hurt, but 11 bystanders were killed. A fortnight previously gunmen stormed the Supreme Court complex, killing at least 30 people and fighting gun battles with police and soldiers.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

March On Cancer™ - Local Marketing and Promotions Volunteer

This is an unpaid voluntary role.: Cancer Research UK: We need motivational vo...

Teaching Assistants

£50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

£1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week