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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Burundian soldiers missing in Somalia

Agence France Presse

March 2, 2011

Burundian members of the African Union force in Somalia (AMISIOM) have been declared missing in action following intense fighting that took place week in Mogadishu, the army chief said.

"Some (Burundian) soldiers have been reported missing, that's true, but it doesn't mean they are dead or captured," General Godefroid Niyombare told reporters late Tuesday.

Burundi's army spokesman had said last week that six AMISOM soldiers, including three Burundians, were killed during a fresh offensive against the Al Qaeda-inspired insurgency in the Somali capital last week.

The Shebab insurgents have since published pictures they said showed Burundian soldiers captured during the fighting.

"I have seen those pictures too but they have not been authenticated by our services yet," Niyombare said.

"Some people are saying that dozens of soldiers were killed but all I can tell you that even one is one too many," the general said. "Whether six, 10 or 20 are dead, I don't see what would change if I told you."

"However I can tell you, and this is the most important, that by now the operation launched on February 23 has achieved all its targets. Our soldiers are in the process of consolidating their positions," Niyombare said.

According to witnesses and officials, more than 50 people, most of them combattants, were killed in the offensive and dozens wounded.

France announced Tuesday that it had flown 13 wounded Burundian and Ugandan soldiers to Djibouti for medical care.

AMISOM and the Somali government forces it supports said they had reconquered large swathes of Mogadishu previously controlled by the Shebab.

Burundi contributes at least 3,500 troops to the AMISOM force while the remaining the soldiers are provided by Uganda.

At least 30 Burundian soldiers have died since the force was first deployed in 2007.



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