Mogadishu: Somalia`s hardline al Shabaab insurgents said they will strike the capitals of Burundi and Uganda in revenge for rocket attacks by peacekeepers from those countries that killed at least 30 people in Mogadishu.
"We shall make their people cry. We`ll attack Bujumbura and Kampala ... We will move our fighting to those two cities and we shall destroy them," Sheikh Ali Mohamed Hussein, a senior al Shabaab commander, told reporters late on Thursday in Mogadishu.
Burundi and Uganda both have about 2,500 peacekeepers in the Somali capital for the African Union`s (AU) AMISOM force.
Reports said that they fired at least 35 rockets into the capital`s Bakara market area on Thursday after al Shabaab gunmen there launched mortar shells at President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed`s plane as he left the airport for a summit in Uganda.
The United States accuses the rebel group, which wants to topple Ahmed`s fragile UN-backed administration and impose its own strict version of Islamic law across the country, of being al Qaeda`s proxy in the failed Horn of Africa state.
AIMSOM`s spokesman in Mogadishu, Major Barigye Ba-hoku, denied on Friday that the AU soldiers had fired any artillery and blamed Thursday`s civilian deaths on rebel bombs.
"We did not shell any place ... We are investigating and the Somali government is investigating too," Ba-hoku said.
"Al Shabaab wants to drag us into their war ... they shell us and then they also shell Bakara, then they tell people there it was AMISOM who killed civilians. We know their tactics."
Civilian deaths "disastrous"
Fighting in Somalia has killed 19,000 civilians since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, triggering one of the world`s worst humanitarian emergencies.
Western security agencies say the drought-ravaged nation has become a safe haven for militants, including foreign jihadists, who use it to plot attacks across the region and beyond.
Thursday`s clashes were some of the heaviest to rock Mogadishu for weeks, and they underlined the difficulties facing the 5,000-strong AU mission.
While winning some hearts and minds by giving residents access to clean water and free medical treatment, AMISOM has been unable to do much more than secure the city`s airport, sea port, presidential palace and a few roads in between.