World News

Somalia's Islamist rebels kill four airport workers in capital

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Islamist gunmen killed four airport workers in a drive-by shooting in the center of Mogadishu on Monday, the police and rebels said, showing the rebels can still carry out attacks in the capital even as they lose territory in the countryside.

The Mogadishu airport’s deputy director was one of the people killed, according to Nur Ismail, a police officer. The attack took place near the airport in K4, a bustling business district.

“Armed men in a car opened fire on Mogadishu airport aviation workers,” Ismail said. “The workers died then and there and the attackers escaped.”

Al Shabaab militants were pushed out of Mogadishu in 2011, but the group has vowed to continue its battle against a Western-backed government which also enjoys broad pan-African support.

African Union peacekeepers and the Somali army last year opened a campaign that has forced the al Qaeda-linked rebels out of major strongholds in central and southern regions.

Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, told Reuters the group was behind the attack on the airport workers.

“We shall step up killing those who work for the government or at their airport,” he said.

Al Shabaab militants have in the past targeted Mogadishu’s main airport, Aden Adde International Airport, with suicide bombers and mortar attacks.

However, the airport has in recent years been refurbished and several major upgrades are planned as more international airlines express interest in flying to Somalia.

Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by Drazen Jorgic; Editing by Larry King