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Rebels in Somalia kill 3 as Ramadan starts Al-Shabaab warned of attacks during fasting month

MOGADISHU, June 29, (RTRS): Islamist rebels shot dead three members of Somalia’s security forces in the capital on Sunday, police and witnesses said on the first day of Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month when insurgents had warned they would stage attacks. The government and African Union peacekeepers have stepped up security to try to prevent assaults during the month by the Islamist al Shabaab group, which has waged a seven-year campaign to impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Two traffic police men were gunned down by militants on Maka al Mukaram road, a major thoroughfare through the centre of Mogadishu, the commander of traffic police, Ali Hirsi, told Reuters. “The attackers escaped,” he said. In a northern district of the city, a soldier was shot dead by men with pistols, shopkeeper Ali Abdullahi said, adding it happened on the street outside his store. Al Shabaab has a strong presence in the north of the capital, residents say.

The group claimed responsibility for all three killings. “This marks the beginning of our operations. More are to follow,” the spokesman for al Shabaab’s military operations, Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, told Reuters. Another al Shabaab spokesman, Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage, had said on Saturday that the extra deployment of African Union and Somali forces would not be able to halt their operations.

Al Shabaab also staged a series of gun and bomb attacks last year during Ramadan, when Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. In the past year or so, al Shabaab has killed dozens of people in guerrilla-style assaults in Mogadishu, on UN offices, the presidential compound, parliament and the courts. The government, which is trying to impose order on a nation that has been ruined by more than two decades of conflict, has said it wants more international training and other help, and has also improved coordination between its security agencies. “The security situation remains unpredictable,” the UN special representative for Somalia, Nick Kay, told Reuters in Nairobi on Saturday.

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