Top of the Morning: Bombing in Damascus; Massacre in the DRC; and AU Wants more Green Helmets for Somalia

Top stories from the Development and Aid World News Service–DAWNS Digest.

At Least 25 Killed in Rare Suicide Bombing Attack in Damascus
Is the “Free Syrian Army” a terrorist outfit? Is the Syrian regime dispatching suicide bombers to Damascus as agent provocateurs to discredit the opposition movement? Is a third party trying to flex its muscle? Whatever the case, there has been yet another attack in Damascus, which until two weeks ago had pretty pretty much free from this kind of violence. “An explosion tore through a densely populated neighborhood in Damascus on Friday, killing 25 people and wounding dozens more in the second attack in the Syrian capital in two weeks, Syrian television and other state media reported. Government media said the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber at a busy intersection, and television broadcast images of a wrecked police bus, asphalt smeared with blood and glass and the shattered windshields of other vehicles. It said the blast was “a powerful explosion” in the neighborhood of Midan, which has proven restive, and it said both civilians and personnel with the security forces were wounded and killed. Syrian television put the number of wounded at 46.” (NYT

African Union Wants to Grow its Somalia Force to nearly 18,000

AMISOM has struggled to wield much influence beyond Mogadishu. But with Kenyan and Ethiopian military forces invading Somalia from the South, there’s a need to hold territory that’s been recently “liberated” from al Shabaab. Enter the “Green Helmets” of the African Union. “The African Union on Thursday asked the United Nations to authorise an increase of its peacekeeping force in war-torn Somalia by 5,700 to 17,700 amid mounting attacks by Islamist rebels. Monica Juma, Kenya’s ambassador to the UN, made the announcement. The African force, called AMISOM, has been functioning under UN mandate since 2007 in the lawless Horn of Africa nation. ‘The highlights were: the need to increase the AMISOM troops from 12,000 to 17,700, the need to fast track the creation of an administrative unit in the liberated areas,’ Juma said, after presiding over a meeting of the AU’s Peace and Security Council in the Ethiopian capital. She also highlighted the need for ‘logistical support in order to optimise the capability of the AMISOM troops,’ and to beef up the ‘capability of the TFG (transitional government forces) and allied forces in order… to begin to create a Somalian security force.’”  (AFP

Death Toll Doubles in DRC Massacre

Yesterday, we brought news of a massacre carried out in eastern DRC that killed 26 people–the worst violence there in several months. We are getting a clearer picture of what happened, and it is even worse than expected. Apparently, the villages that were attack were targeted by FDLR rebels because of their perceived support for a rival militia. “Some 45 civilians were massacred in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo but Congolese troops sent to the area killed four of the Rwandan rebels thought to have been responsible, the Congolese army said on Thursday. The civilian killings took place on Monday and Tuesday in remote villages in the territory of Shabunda in South Kivu province, an area still troubled by armed groups more than eight years after the end of a 1998-2003 war. ‘Our sources are now saying 45 people dead, mainly women and children, one pregnant woman was eviscerated and the head of a village was decapitated,’ Colonel Sylvain Ekenge, an army spokesman, said by telephone.” (AlertNet