Mogadishu: Fighters in Somalia shot dead three Syrian doctors and their three Somali colleagues on Wednesday as they travelled to a hospital outside the capital Mogadishu, an AFP reporter said.
Their bullet-riddled bodies were carried into Mogadishu’s Madina hospital after the attack on road leading from the capital to Afgoye, a town some 30km northwest of the capital.
Doctors at the hospital said the foreigners killed were Syrians. “We do not know the motive behind the attack. This has shocked us and made us very sad. It is very unfortunate to see our colleagues being murdered for unknown reasons,” said Abdul Rahman Mohammad Fiqi, the director of the hospital where the doctors worked.
“The Syrian doctors fled their homeland because of the civil war and came to us voluntarily to help and work with us as doctors,” said Fiqi.
One Syrian doctor was also wounded in the attack, which took place as the group travelled down the road towards Afgoye, a former stronghold of the Al Qaida-linked Al Shabab insurgents, before they were driven from the town in May 2012.
However, a senior Al Shabab official said they did not carry out the attack, although their fighters have often carried out shootings, bombings and suicide commando raids against government and international targets, including aid workers.
The region is awash with guns and multiple armed men and militia forces operate in the area, one of the most dangerous places in the world for aid workers.
Somalia has been riven by civil war since the collapse of the central government in 1991.
The Al Shabab have been driven out of Somalia’s major towns by a UN-mandated African Union force (Amisom).
However the Al Shabab still controls large swathes of southern Somalia as well as pockets of Puntland.
On Monday, a new chief of the AU force took over command, vowing he would lead the 17,700-strong force in a fresh offensive against the Al Shabab, with over 4,000 reinforcements expected.
With extra troops, “Amisom will be able to expand its area of responsibilities to liberate other locations, which are currently in the hands of Al Shabab,” said new commander Silas Ntigurirwa, a Burundian general.
Al Shabab claimed responsibility for an bloody attack in September on a shopping mall in Nairobi in retaliation for Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia.
Last week, 13 people were killed in four attacks in Kenya during week-long celebrations to mark the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.