Thursday, March 26, 2009

Blast injures Somali minister

Blast injures Somali minister
Rival armed groups are fighting each other, as well as the government, for control of Somalia [AFP]

Somalia's interior minister has been wounded after a roadside bomb exploded next to his car in the capital Mogadishu, officials and witnesses say.

Abdel-Qader Ali Omar's bodyguard and two passers-by were killed in the blast in the Bakara neighbourhood on Thursday, witnesses said.

"He was targeted in a roadside bomb explosion. He sustained injuries but they are not too serious. One of his bodyguards died," a government official told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack.

"We heard a big explosion, which seemed to be a landmine targeting the car," Abdirahman Ali, a witness, said. "I was standing opposite. Bodyguards opened fire."

Omar spoke to the media shortly after being treated for shoulder injuries at a Mogadishu hospital.

"I have no problem and I escaped the attack," he said.
"I'm not going to say who is behind the attack just now but we all know each other in the capital Mogadishu and we will take steps to enforce peace."

Tentative hopes

Somalia's transitional government has little control in the war-torn country, which is dominated by rival armed Islamic groups and has been without an effective central government since 1991.

However, there are tentative hopes for some sort of stability under the new government under Sharif Ahmed, the president and a former leader of the Islamic courts union, which ruled much of the country in late 2006.

"Because the war has been fought for so long, the suffering is so long that people are crying for peace," Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, the UN envoy to Somalia, said.

"The government has to strengthen its base and simultaneously reach out to all Somalis."

Omar led a Somali group fighting Ethiopian troops, who helped push the Islamic courts out of Somalia in 2006, before was appointed to the interior ministry following a deal to bring the armed opposition into government.

Al-Shabaab, a hardline group which controls severals towns, including the government's former seat in Baidoa, launches frequent attacks on government targets and African Union peacekeepers.

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