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Militants storm U.N. compound in Somalia; 20 killed

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Seven al-Qaida-linked militants on a suicide mission attacked a U.N. compound Wednesday with a truck bomb and then poured inside, killing at least 13 people before dying in the assault.

At least three foreigners were slain during the raid in the Somali capital of Mogadishu.

The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack, calling the United Nations "a merchant of death."

African Union forces expelled al-Shabab from Mogadishu in August 2011. After the ouster of al-Shabab, the international community had started trickling back into the capital, and the United Nations began moving in its personnel from Kenya, a process that accelerated in recent weeks.

Wednesday's attack, however, underscores the fragile security situation and will force the United Nations and embassies to review safety plans and decide whether they have the resources to withstand a sustained assault from al-Shabab.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who expressed outrage over the attack, commended the U.N. security guards who defended the compound, said U.N. deputy spokesman Eduardo del Buey.

The U.N. Security Council later Wednesday reiterated its willingness "to take action against those whose behavior threatens the peace, stability or security of Somalia."

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, condemned the "brazen assault on civilians working for peace."

The attack began about 11:30 a.m. when the seven al-Shabab militants from what the group called its martyrdom brigade blew up an explosives-laden truck at the gates of the U.N. compound and gunmen rushed in, a U.N. official who insisted on anonymity because he was not an official spokesman told the Associated Press. At least two other blasts followed, said Ben Parker, a spokesman for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia.

Dozens of staff from U.N. humanitarian and development agencies were in the compound, and many were moved to a secure bunker in the complex, Parker said. Later, they were evacuated to a secure military base and airport complex across the street, where U.N.-backed African Union military forces are based.

Militants storm U.N. compound in Somalia; 20 killed 06/19/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, June 19, 2013 10:21pm]
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