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UN says two of its humanitarian workers killed in Somalia

The United Nations on Wednesday condemned the killing of two of its humanitarian workers in Somalia by assailants from Islamist group al Shabaab and urged all combatants in the country's warring sides to respect civilians.

MOGADISHU, Oct 28 (Reuters) - The United Nations on Wednesday condemned the killing of two of its humanitarian workers in Somalia by assailants from Islamist group al Shabaab and urged all combatants in the country's warring sides to respect civilians.

In a statement, the international body said the two victims, both Somalis, were working with an ongoing polio vaccination campaign by the U.N. agencies UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).

They were killed on Tuesday in the Somalia capital Mogadishu.

"These workers were civilians providing critical health services to vulnerable children in Mogadishu," the statement said, adding they were killed by suspected al Shabaab fighters.

"The United Nations strongly condemns this reprehensible act and emphasizes that in conflict situations all parties must respect and protect civilians."

Al Qaeda-allied al Shabaab has been fighting for years to topple Somalia's central government and establish its own rule based on its strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

Fighters from the group frequently carry out bombings and gun assaults on both civilians and military targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere in Somalia.

Humanitarian workers too have died in the skirmishing between the insurgents and the Somali military and regional peacekeepers.

Since January 2020, 13 humanitarian workers have been killed while 12 were injured in such violent incidents.

Al Shabaab also carries out attacks in neighbouring Kenya to pressure the government to withdraw troops who are part of a regional force helping defend the central government.

According to the statement, the campaign is aiming to reach 1.6 million children in the country's south and central regions with oral polio inoculations.

The U.N. asked the Somali authorities to conduct an investigation into the killings.

(Writing by Elias Biryabarema Editing by Bernadette Baum)

((Email:elias.biryabarema@thomsonreuters.com; Tel. +254 20 499 1232; Reuters Messaging: elias.biryabarema.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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