MOGADISHU (Reuters) - At least nine Somalis were killed and dozens wounded when a rocket fired at African Union troops hit a restaurant in an ambush that also slightly injured two of the peacekeepers, officials said on Thursday.
The attack late on Wednesday was the second in as many days against the Ugandan troops, the vanguard of an AU force that became a target the moment it landed in the coastal capital Mogadishu on Tuesday.
Insurgents who have carried out near-daily assaults against the interim government and its Ethiopian allies for the past two months had threatened the AU troops with attack. But as has been the case all along, civilians bore the brunt of the violence.
A rocket-propelled grenade aimed at an AU armoured car missed and instead blasted apart a restaurant. A hospital doctor said there were 26 wounded, including women and children.
“The place was littered with human limbs,” said one local, who was standing outside and gave his name as Mohamed.
Two other people were killed in that clash, but it was not clear whether they were guerrillas or civilians.
A purported audio tape by an Afghanistan-trained Islamist commander called for an uprising against all “infidels”.
“If we do not choose jihad today we will be in a worse situation tomorrow,” Aden Hashi Ayro said in the recording.
“We will never consent to the presence of the Ethiopians nor Americans, nor anything the infidels want. We will die saying there is no God but Allah.”
The tape could not be independently verified as genuine.
The Ugandans immediately faced the same kind of treatment that forced a well-funded U.S.-U.N. peacekeeping mission to quit Mogadishu in 1995, bloodied and humiliated by relentless attacks from well-armed Somali militiamen.
“We suffered two minor injuries. We fired in the air to scare them and that is how we managed to drive through,” AU mission spokesman Capt. Paddy Ankunda said.
Despite the attacks, another contingent of Ugandans landed on Thursday and the AU said the deployments would continue, until all 1,600 Ugandans pledged to go have arrived. About 1,000 were already in Somalia, AU spokesman Assane Ba said.
The Mogadishu insurgents are thought primarily to be fighters from an Islamist movement routed from the city in December in a joint Somali-Ethiopian blitz. They view the Ugandans as government allies -- and therefore targets.
The Ugandans were first targeted in a series of mortar strikes that hit their base at Mogadishu’s international airport just hours after they landed on Tuesday.
The AU force is supposed to help President Abdullahi Yusuf’s government extend its shaky authority over a country mired in anarchy since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was toppled in 1991.
None of the 13 other attempts at government since then has succeeded.
As with a peacekeeping operation in Sudan’s Darfur region, the AU faces a shortage of money and equipment. Nigeria, Ghana, Malawi and Burundi are also expected to send troops, but pledges so far make up only about half of the required 8,000 soldiers.
It was not clear how the reception given the Ugandans would affect troop deployments and contributions from other countries.