Somalia militants publish slain peacekeeper IDs

MOGADISHU Mon Dec 12, 2011 8:49pm IST

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MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Islamist militant group al Shabaab released what it says are ID card scans of eight slain Burundian peacekeepers on Monday, the latest salvo in a growing propaganda campaign around the war in Somalia.

An African Union force of Ugandan and Burundian troops known as AMISOM has been largely responsible for keeping al Shabaab from ousting Somalia's internationally-backed but weak government.

Al Shabaab displayed dozens of bodies in army fatigues to journalists in October, saying they were AU soldiers killed in the latest fighting in the capital.

A Reuters photographer counted 76 bodies, some of whom had helmets and flak jackets laid out nearby. The AU acknowledged at least 10 of its troops were killed.

The release of the photographs is part of a publicity war between the militants and neighbouring Kenya, which sent its troops into Somalia more than two months ago after blaming al Shabaab for attacks on tourists and security forces on its soil.

Witnesses and anonymous Ethiopian officials say Ethiopian forces also crossed into the nearly lawless country last month to support pro-government militias.

"In response to requests from some families in Burundi, Harakat Al-Shabaab Al Mujahideen has decided to publish the details of some of the Burundian soldiers killed during the heavy battles in the Somali capital Mogadishu," Al Shabaab said in a statement.

In a message designed to display its authority, the group gave contact details where it said families of Burundian soldiers could seek confirmation if they feared that their relatives had been killed in battle.

Al Shabaab opened an account on social media site, Twitter, last week and has exchanged goading messages with Kenyan military spokesman Emmanuel Chirchir.

Al Shabaab tweeted that it published the scans because the Burundian authorities were unable to identify the soldiers. Burundian government spokespeople did not immediately comment.

Kenya, the region's biggest economy, has been plagued by a wave of low-level strikes since crossing the border.

The third attack in two days came on Saturday when a senior intelligence officer in the town of Wajir, near the Somali border, was among several people injured by a roadside bomb while travelling back from celebrations to mark Kenyan independence day.

"We had just finished Jamhuri day celebrations. Everybody was either going back home or to the town when suddenly we had a huge blast, dust all over, the vehicle had been hit just opposite the Red Cross office," Rashid Mohamed,a resident who witnessed the incident, told Reuters.

(Additional reporting by Noor Ali in Garissa; writing by Barry Malone; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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