Suicide bombers kill six politicians in hotel attack
At least 70 people died in Somalia, as Islamist rebels launched a spate of attacks in the capital, Mogadishu.
Six politicians were killed after two suicide bombers disguised as government soldiers shot dead people staying at the Muna Hotel in the city before blowing themselves up, the Information Ministry said yesterday.
The escalation in fighting comes after the African Union (AU) force of 6,100 personnel, known as Amisom, that backs the government, was joined earlier this month by hundreds of additional Ugandan troops.
A battalion from Burundi is also on the way and Guinea and Djibouti pledged to send forces to battle groups like al-Shabaab, the Islamist militia accused by the United States of having links to al-Qa'ida, and Hisbul Islam.
"This is a particularly outrageous act during the Islamic month of Ramadan," John Brennan, US President Barack Obama's counterterrorism adviser, said in Massachusetts, where Mr Obama is on vacation.
He added that the US "will continue to partner with those who oppose terrorism and violence in all forms" in that region.
"Al-Shabaab seems to be flexing their muscle to show Amisom is not going to chase them out of town," said Scott Stewart, from Strategic Forecasting, the Texas-based intelligence group.
Somalia's government has been battling the insurgents since 2007. Most of southern and central Somalia has been seized by the rebels, while President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed's administration controls just portions of Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab was responsible for the hotel attack, Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage, a spokesman for the militia, said. He added that about 31 people died.
"Al-Shabaab's vision for Africa stands in contrast to the vision of the overwhelming majority of Africans," Mr Brennan said.
Last month, six east African nations agreed to send 2,000 peacekeepers to bolster the AU force as it tried to prevent the instability from spreading. Al- Shabaab last month claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in Kampala, Uganda, in which 76 people died. Al-Shabaab "doesn't appear" to have taken any new territory in the latest clashes, after being repelled by AU peacekeepers.
The latest fighting erupted in the north and south of Mogadishu after Mr Rage said the militia would escalate its campaign against the government to "eradicate the invaders".
The two sides exchanged mortar fire, and al-Shabaab fired rocket-propelled grenades. At least 39 people died, while 138 people were injured.