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AU mission apologises for killing 4 Somalis taken for Shebab
by Staff Writers
Mogadishu (AFP) April 17, 2016

The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) apologised for accidentally killing four civilians Saturday after soldiers mistook them for Shebab fighters when they failed to stop at a roadblock.

The incident happened in the area of Buulo Mareer in the Lower Shebelle region, 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of the capital Mogadishu.

"A speeding vehicle approached the roadblock and failed to adhere to repeated warnings to stop. Assuming the car to be a Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Device (VBIED), the troops opened fire resulting in the death of four occupants of the vehicle," said a statement issued by AMISOM Sunday.

"AMISOM profoundly regrets the loss of civilian lives that occurred during the operation and presents its heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families," said the statement.

The incident has been referred to the African Union commission and an AMISOM inquiry has been opened to determine the circumstances of the shooting.

The Somali government is defended by the African Union's 22,000-strong AMISOM mission against the AL-Qaeda-linked Shebab group, which has vowed to overthrow the country's fragile Western-backed authorities.

Confronted with AMISOM's superior fire power, Shebab militants were chased out of Mogadishu in August 2011.

After a relative calm in the Somali capital, the Shebab have ramped up attacks in recent months, taking advantage of the apathy of the AMISOM mission and the weakness of Somalia's central government.

AMISOM's effectiveness is hampered by mutual suspicion and jealousy among the main troop contributing countries and a lack of coordination, funds and focus.

It is also struggling to adapt to a rural counter-insurgency as Shebab fighters increasingly shift their battle from cities to the countryside.

Colombia FARC rebels seek Pope's backing in peace bid
Havana (AFP) April 17, 2016 - Colombia's FARC leftist rebel force called on Sunday for Pope Francis's support to prevent other armed groups from disrupting its efforts to seal a peace deal with the government.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the country's government say they are close to a deal to end a half-century conflict.

But the FARC Marxist guerrillas say remnants of right-wing paramilitary groups that were previously key players in the conflict have been attacking them in a "criminal offensive" aiming to undermine the peace initiative.

"There are serious storm threats on the horizon, which threaten to knock down this grand effort by all the Colombian people," the FARC's top commander Timoleon Jimenez wrote in an open letter to the Vatican published online.

"Their terrible actions coincide with plotting by political players that benefit from the war, which stir up passions and intend to turn public opinion against the agreements that have been reached."

He called on the Catholic Church to take a "leading role" and asked Francis to openly support efforts to seal a peace deal.

Right-wing paramilitary groups fought the leftist guerrillas for decades in the drawn-out territorial dispute, trying to drive them from their bases in the countryside.

The government officially disbanded the paramilitary groups a decade ago, but in many cases their remnants have transformed into drug gangs in the world's largest cocaine-producing country.

The FARC says paramilitary death squads will come after former rebels if they disarm, posing an obstacle to the peace agreement.

The half-century conflict in Colombia has claimed the lives of more than 260,000 people.

After more than three years of peace talks in the Cuban capital Havana, the government and FARC say they are close to signing a deal.

But they have yet to agree on disarmament and how to ratify the final accord.

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