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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Life and Style
A nurse tends to a recovering patient on a general ward at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham
health
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
A voter placing a ballot paper in the box at a polling station
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Sport
football
  • Get to the point
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

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power