Rebels attack WFP compound in southern Somalia.


Halkaan ka akhri

* Guards kill three assailants

* Area controlled by al Shabaab rebels

* Nine foreign aid workers evacuated to Kenya

* Shabaab quit Bulahawa without a fight

MOGADISHU, Aug 17 – Suspected Islamist rebels attacked a U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) compound in southern Somalia, witnesses said on Monday, but U.N. guards fought back and shot dead three of the assailants.

One U.N. official said about 10 heavily armed men attacked them overnight in Wajid, 70 km (40 miles) northwest of Baidoa.

“After several minutes shooting our security guards repulsed the attackers and killed three of them,” the official told Reuters, adding that one guard at the compound was injured.

“We don’t know what they planned, but we think they wanted to take over the whole compound and kidnap foreign aid workers.”

Another U.N. official said nine foreign aid workers staying in Wajid were evacuated at dawn to neighbouring Kenya.

The WFP spokesman in Nairobi, Peter Smerdon, said the nine foreign staff were from Uganda, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nepal, the Netherlands, Kenya, Albania and Britain.

“WFP commends its guards for their actions in defending the compound and U.N. staff. Talks are under way with the local community and local administration to calm the situation,” Smerdon said.

WFP sub-contracts the guards from the local community in Wajid. The area is under the control of the al Shabaab rebel group, which the United States accuses of being al Qaeda’s proxy in the Horn of Africa nation.

Smerdon said the attackers were believed to be rogue al Shabaab members who had subsequently left Wajid.

Western security agencies say Somalia is a haven for Islamist militants plotting attacks in the region and beyond. Violence has killed more than 18,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven another 1 million from their homes.

Somalia has been mired in civil war for 18 years, and the administration of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls only small pockets of the coastal capital Mogadishu.

Last month, al Shabaab banned the U.N. Development Programme, U.N. Political Office for Somalia and U.N. Department of Safety and Security from operating in its territory.

Elsewhere in southern Somalia, hundreds of pro-government militiamen on trucks fitted with heavy guns occupied Bulahawa town, near the Kenyan border, on Monday without firing a shot.

Residents said al Shabaab fighters who had controlled the area appeared to have melted away.

Sheikh Abdullahi Sheikh Abu Yusuf, spokesman for the Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca group, said their forces would not rest until they had driven al Shabaab out of its southern strongholds.

“Al Shabaab ran away when our battlewagons approached,” he told Reuters. “We were welcomed by residents who they harassed. We will capture Kismayu, Bay, Gedo and Bakool regions. We can’t watch our people being jailed and punished for no reason.”

Source: Reuters

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