Somalia govt licks wounds after deadly suicide attack

Somalia’s government was reeling on Friday from an insurgent suicide bombing that killed its security minister and 19 other people, six weeks into a fierce nationwide insurgent offensive.

Omar Hashi Aden, a key member President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed’s embattled transitional administration, was among 20 people killed when a suicide bomber rammed his vehicle into a hotel in the western town of Beledweyne.

The attack, the deadliest since an alliance of hard-line insurgent groups launched a military push to topple Sharif on May 7, also left at least 30 wounded and drew a barrage of international condemnation.

“This deplorable attack is another example of the cowardly acts undertaken by those who oppose the efforts to achieve peace in Somalia,” the United States said in a statement.

Britain also condemned the bombing, Africa Minister Mark Malloch-Brown describing it as a “horrific attack that has resulted in the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians”.

Other donor countries and international organisations also reiterated their commitment to supporting Sharif, who has failed to assert his authority on the Horn of Africa country since being elected in June.

The African Union, the European Union, the Inter Governmental Agency on Development, the League of Arab States and the United Nations issued a joint statement to condemn the carnage.

“This deplorable attack once again demonstrates that the extremists will stop at nothing in their desperate attempt to seize power from the legitimate government of Somalia by force,” it read.

“These extremists, both Somali and foreigners, failed in their recent attempted coup d’etat but are continuing their indiscriminate violence.”

The transitional Somali government attempted to remain in defiant mood, despite suffering one of its worst setbacks in weeks.

“The assassination of Colonel Hashi was clearly intended to try to disrupt the successful peace process aimed at restoring stability to Somalia after two decades of conflict,” a statement said.

“However these bloody murderers will not succeed,” it added.

The minister’s death came two days after the assassination of Mogadishu’s top police commander.

The drive against Sharif’s administration has been spearheaded by the hard-line al-Shabaab armed group and the more political Hezb al-Islam (Party of Islam) of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, a former Sharif ally.

Aweys and al-Shabaab, who were among the main targets of Ethiopia’s 2006 military invasion, have refused to join peace efforts despite Ethiopia’s January pull-out.

They argue that the African Union’s 4 300 Ugandan and Burundian peacekepeers are an occupation force bent on imposing Christianity in Somalia.

The head of the pro-government Islamic Courts militia, Ibrahim Maow, told reporters in Beledweyne on Thursday that Somalia’s former ambassador to Ethiopia, Abdulkarim Ibrahim Lakanyo, was also among those killed in the bombing.

The radical Islamic al-Shabaab said one of its “holy warriors” had carried out the suicide attack.

“One of our Mujahedeens went with his car laden with explosives to a building where the apostate and other members from his group had been meeting,” al-Shabaab spokesperson Sheikh Ali Mohamoud Rage said.

“The apostates have been eliminated, they all died in the suicide attack,” he added.

Sharif blamed the attack on foreign “terrorists who do not want the Somali flag to fly over this nation”.

About 300 people, many of them civilians, have been killed in the six-week-old battle and more than 125 000 displaced, according to UN figures and casualty tolls compiled by Agence France-Presse.—AFP

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