Image: Somalia fighting
Farah Abdi Warsameh  /  AP
A woman helps a relative injured during clashes Thursday between African peacekeepers backing Somali government forces and Islamist insurgents.
updated 9/18/2009 5:59:20 PM ET 2009-09-18T21:59:20

Islamic insurgents on Friday vowed to launch more attacks after using stolen U.N. cars in an assault on an African Union peacekeeping base in Somalia that killed 21 people. A Somali official said that six more U.N. vehicles were unaccounted for.

Thursday's suicide car bombings were the deadliest single attack on AU peacekeepers since they arrived in the lawless African nation in 2007. The bombings also underscored links between al-Qaida's terror network and Somalia's homegrown insurgency.

In a message posted Friday on jihadist forums, the Global Islamic Media Front said it was speaking on behalf of Somali insurgent group al-Shabab and vowed more attacks.

"What is coming is worse and more bitter, with permission from Allah," the group said, according to the Washington-based SITE Intelligence Group, a terrorist-monitoring firm.

Sheik Yusuf Mohamed Siad, state minister for defense in Somalia, said there were six stolen U.N. vehicles unaccounted for and that authorities were monitoring the situation.

Newsweek: Why we don't care about Somalia anymoreAl-Shabab, a powerful Islamist group with foreign fighters in its ranks, has claimed responsibility for Thursday's violence and said it was to avenge a U.S. commando raid on Monday that killed a key al-Qaida operative, Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, in southern Somalia.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley condemned Thursday's attack and said the U.S. would continue to support the Somali government.

"We reject violence and extremism as a solution to Somalia's challenges," Crowley said at a press briefing Thursday in Washington.

Somalia's national security minister — who took the job after his predecessor was killed in a suicide attack in June — told reporters in Nairobi that his government has little capacity to "stop someone who is determined to die ... But we have to make attempts to eliminate them."

Abdullahi Mohamed Ali added that the government is boosting security at key government and AU installations.

AU asks for international aid
An African Union envoy, meanwhile, pleaded for more international aid to stabilize Somalia, which many fear is becoming a haven for al-Qaida — a place for terrorists to train and plan attacks elsewhere.

"We need to get the international community to really come forward ... we don't have sufficient capacity," said Nicolas Bwakira, the AU envoy to Somalia.

The peacekeeping force from the 53-nation AU has long lamented that it is undermanned. Out of a planned 8,000 troops, there are only about 5,000 soldiers from Uganda and Burundi.

Burundian Major Gen. Juvenal Niyoyunguruza, the deputy commander, was killed in Thursday's attack as he was about to depart Somalia and was introducing his successor, who survived.

The death toll from the twin suicide car bombings rose to 21 Friday, including 17 peacekeepers, an AU spokesman said. The previous highest toll was 11 peacekeepers who died in February in an insurgent attack.

About 40 others were wounded Thursday in the car bombs at Mogadishu's airport where the AU base is located, said Gaffel Nkolokosa, the spokesman for the AU mission for Somalia. A counterstrike from the AU base killed at least seven people in Mogadishu, Somalia's capital.

Suicide attacks were virtually unknown in Somalia before 2007, even though the nation has been wracked by war for almost two decades.

Al-Shabab controls much of Somalia and operates openly in the capital, confining the government and peacekeepers to a few blocks of the city. The U.S. and the U.N. both support Somalia's government and the African peacekeeping force.

Last month, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged during a trip to Africa to expand U.S. support, including military aid, to the beleaguered Somali government and the AU peacekeeping force. She did not give details.

Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and turned on each other. Piracy has flourished off the Somali coast, making the Gulf of Aden one of the most dangerous waterways in the world.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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