MOGADISHU: The United Nations mission in Somalia says several people were wounded when mortar rounds landed inside the UN and African Union compounds in Mogadishu.

The statement says the mortar rounds landed early afternoon on Sunday. It cites UN special representative James Swan as saying he is appalled by “this blatant act of terrorism against our personnel.” The Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility for the attack in Somalia’s capital.

The heavily fortified UN compound has been hit by mortars in the past.

The AU has a multinational force that is preparing to hand over responsibility for the country’s security to Somali forces over the coming months.

No group has so far claimed responsibility for the Sunday afternoon assault, but the Islamist militant group Shebaab has carried out similar attacks during more than ten years of fighting.

“Several rounds of mortar shells landed within the vicinity of the airport,” police officer Mohamed Hassan said.

While the police had no details on casualties, a UN source who asked not to be named said nine people had been injured but none seriously.

The injured were three soldiers from the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), one civilian AMISOM worker, a UN mission staff member and four UN contract workers, the source added.

UN special representative for Somalia, James Swan, in a statement confirmed the attack had injured several people without giving further details.

“There is no justification for such despicable acts of violence, and the United Nations remains determined to support Somalia on its path to peace,” the statement said.

Witnesses inside the AMISOM said the attack provoked panic at the base.

One witness, Abdulahi Hassan, said: “Around three rounds of mortar shells struck close to the AMISOM hospital and the UN compound, three soldiers and several UN contractors were wounded.” The high-security zone around Mogadishu international airport houses not just international organisations but a number of embassies.

Al Qaeda affiliate Shebaab has been fighting for more than a decade to overthrow successive internationally backed governments in Mogadishu.

Published in Dawn, October 14th, 2019