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Somali Militants Live-Tweet Their Deadly Attack on U.N. Compound

The Somali militant movement al-Shabab today launched a deadly strike against a U.N. humanitarian compound in Mogadishu that killed one international staffer, three contractors, four Somali security guards, and an unknown number of Somali civilians. Then the group gloated about it in a creepy series of Twitter posts. The tweets seemed calculated to taunt the ...

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The Somali militant movement al-Shabab today launched a deadly strike against a U.N. humanitarian compound in Mogadishu that killed one international staffer, three contractors, four Somali security guards, and an unknown number of Somali civilians.

Then the group gloated about it in a creepy series of Twitter posts.

The tweets seemed calculated to taunt the new U.N. representative, Nicholas Kay, who opened a political office in Mogadishu this month. "So Nicholas Kay, are you still planning to settle down in Mogadishu by the end of the month?" read one tweet.

U.N. officials dismissed al-Shabab’s taunts, saying that they would not be deterred by the latest attack, though U.N. security measures are all but certain to be heightened. They also pointed out that Kay is already in Mogadishu and would remain. The attack, they noted, was not directed at Kay’s office.

The attack — which targeted a U.N. humanitarian compound in Mogadishu — was intended as a show of force in the nation’s capital for a movement that had been largely driven out of the city 18 months ago.

The Associated Press reported that seven militants "on a suicide mission" attacked the compound with a truck bomb and then forced their way onto the premises, killing at least 13 people before they were killed in the assault. Al-Shabab, which took responsibility for the attack, broadcast on Twitter what it claimed was a real-time account of the attack. "We’ve just contacted the Mujahideen inside the #UNDP and they are still fighting some western mercenaries inside the compound," one tweet stated. "Inside the compound are several clueless foreigners who were lulled into a false sense of security by a strong disinformation campaign!" stated another.

The al Qaeda-connected militant group accused the United Nations of "Serving #US goals" and acting as an impediment to the establishment of "Allah’s Law on earth & must therefore be dislodged."

"The UN, a merchant of death & a satanic force of evil, has a long inglorious record of spreading nothing but poverty, dependency & disbelief," the group added.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the raid. Ban’s office released a statement denouncing "today’s violent attack" on a compound where "UN humanitarian and development workers reside and work."

Ban voiced appreciation to the Somali government and an African-led peacekeeping force for "their immediate responses to secure the area and protect UN personnel," according to the statement, which was attributed to his spokesman. Ban "also commends UN security guards who bravely engaged the assailants after they entered the compound following the detonation of a car bomb at its entrance." The "malicious terrorist attacks of this nature will not deter the United Nations or weaken its resolve to stand by the people and Government of Somalia as they work courageously to build peace in their country," the statement said.

At the White House, National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden also condemned "al-Shabaab’s despicable attack on the United Nations," saying the group had "targeted people and organizations working in partnership with the Somali Government to provide health services, clean water, sanitation, education, and economic opportunity — people striving to build a better future for the Somali people."

"Today’s attack highlights the repugnant terrorist tactics al-Shabaab continues to use to stand in the way of efforts to ease the suffering of the Somali people," she added. "Whether by denying food and medical aid during one of the region’s worst droughts, or by repeated attacks against fellow Somalis and soldiers helping to build a lasting peace, al-Shabaab has shown again and again that it stands on the side of death and destruction."

Follow me on Twitter: @columlynch

Colum Lynch is a senior staff writer at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @columlynch

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