/ 5 December 2009

Somalis stage rare protest condemning deadly attack

Hundreds of Somalis held a rare street protest after Friday prayers to condemn a suicide bombing at a graduation ceremony in Mogadishu in which at least 23 people were killed.

The demonstration took place in the central town of Dhusamareb, close to the Ethiopian border, and was organised by Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa, a moderate Sufi organisation opposed to hardline Islamists.

”Today we are here to show solidarity with the innocent civilians killed in Mogadishu yesterday,” a spokesperson for the group, Sheikh Abdullahi Abdurahman Abu Yusuf, told the demonstrators.

”They did nothing wrong except trying to enjoy a rare happy moment celebrating the end of their education. That happiness didn’t last long.”

Witnesses told Agence France-Presse that several hundred residents heeded the Sufi movement’s call to protest against the attack, in which many students were killed, as well as three Cabinet ministers and three journalists.

The president of the internationally-backed transitional federal administration, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, blamed the suicide attack on the Islamist insurgency.

But the two main insurgents groups — the al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab movement and its Hezb al-Islam allies — both denied any
involvement, charging instead the carnage was the result of a rift in the government’s security apparatus.

Ahlu Sunna wal Jamaa, a group representing Somalia’s most traditional brand of moderate Sufi Islam enjoying broad popular support, last year took up arms to counter the threat of a
nationwide takeover by al-Shabaab.

”We condemn this barbaric act and call upon the Somali people to stand together to fight those enemies who attacked their children,” Sheikh Abdullahi said.

Thursday’s suicide attack, although not the deadliest of recent years, dealt a huge blow to the embattled government and sent shockwaves across the civilian population. – AFP