5 Suicide Bomb Attacks Hit Somalia
MOGADISHU, Somalia — Suicide attacks rocked government security posts, United Nations offices and an Ethiopian consular unit in two regions of northern Somalia on Wednesday, killing or wounding dozens of people, according to officials and witnesses.
Five suicide car bomb attackers struck within fifteen minutes in Hargeisa, the capital of breakaway Somaliland, and in Bosasso, in Puntland, said Faisal Hayle, a security official in Mogadishu for the transitional government of Somalia.
Several buildings were leveled by the attacks. According to Mr. Faisal, the bombers struck at around 10:30 a.m., attacking the government security offices in both Bosasso and Hargeisa, as well as an Ethiopian consulate office and a United Nations office in Hargeisa.
Reuters quoted witnesses as saying the death toll from the two attacks totaled 28, at least 20 of them at the Ethiopian office in Hargeisa.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. Mr. Faisal blamed a militant Islamist group called the Shabab, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.
The Shabab has been waging a relentless war against Somalia’s weak transitional government, but most of its attacks have been confined to south-central Somalia. Hargeisa, in northern Somalia, had been considered an oasis of peace and stability.
The Somaliland government has been credited with setting up a small but functioning democracy, and providing a degree of peace and safety to more than a million people.
Several United Nations agencies are based in Hargeisa.
Neighboring Puntland is a semi-autonomous area known increasingly as a center of piracy and kidnapping.
In a statement on Wednesday, the United Nations Development Program said a suicide bomber had entered its compound in Hargeisa and there were known casualties and deaths but the agency gave no precise figures.
The attack may have been timed to coincide with a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, between Somalia’s transitional leaders and foreign forces supporting them. Militant Islamist groups were not invited to the talks and organizations like the Shabab have shunned the discussions. The militant group says it wants to turn Somalia into an Islamic state and has demanded the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops.
Ethiopian forces have been backing Somalia’s transitional government and have been one of the targets of previous suicide attacks claimed by the Shabab. Last year, there were several suicide attacks on Ethiopian-Somali government army bases, but a coordinated assault with five suicide attacks in a single day was unprecedented.
Witnesses in Hargeisa said that many of the buildings that had been hit were badly damaged and dozens of people had been killed or wounded.
In the port of Bosasso, two huge blasts rocked the city as suicide bombers attacked two offices of the Puntland security forces at around 10:20 a.m., killing a woman cleaner and injuring six soldiers, residents and officials said.
At a news conference after the attacks, the Puntland president, Mohamoud Mose Hersi, blamed the bombings on terrorists seeking to jeopardize Puntland’s security.
“It was two shocking blasts that we haven’t seen before,” he said, accusing outsiders of carrying out the attacks. “We know their faces and they are not Puntlanders.” The first bomb exploded at a security service intelligence office close to the presidential palace in Puntland, according to residents and officials. Two minutes later, another explosion hit the agency’s office in the Laanta Hawada neighborhood, killing one intelligence officer and injuring six.
Mohamoud Awale, a resident of Bosasso, said he saw a speeding car drive into one of the offices. “I was really very shocked, because I haven’t witnessed such a catastrophic event.” Mr. Awale said.
Hawa Mohamoud, a 40-year-old resident with four children, said: “When I heard the explosions, I realized that we were under attack. I don’t know where I can go with these children and it seems that our turn for the insecurity has come.”
Somaliland broke with Somalia in the early 1990s and Puntland declared itself semi-autonomous in 1998.
Mohammed Ibrahim reported from Mogadishu, Somalia, and Jeffrey Gettleman from Nairobi, Kenya.
Suicide bombs kill 22 in northern Somalia, UN hit
By SALAD DUHUL – 52 minutes ago
MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Suicide bombers struck a U.N. compound, the Ethiopian consulate and three other targets in northern Somalia Wednesday, killing at least 22 people in attacks that coincided with international talks in neighboring Kenya about Somalia's political crisis.
Three of the five bombings hit the breakaway republic of Somaliland, one of them exploding at the palace of the regional president. Bombers also simultaneously attacked two intelligence facilities in the semiautonomous northern region of Puntland. All the attacks were in the morning.
No one claimed responsibility for the attacks. But the U.N. and Ethiopia have supported Somalia's weak central government in its battle with Islamic rebels and the rebels have launched such strikes in the past to coincide with U.N.-led efforts to end the turmoil in the Horn of Africa nation.
Witness Ismail Mohamed, 22, said people were screaming and begging for help after the blast at the presidential palace.
"It was a horrendous scene," said Mohamed.
Officials said at least two of the 22 dead were suicide bombers.
Somaliland President Dahir Riyale Kahin's secretary died in the blast at the presidential palace, but the president was not hurt, Adani said. The two suicide bombers and a security official died in the attacks in Puntland, and five security officials were wounded, said Muse Gelle Yusuf, governor of the northern port city of Bossaso in Puntland.
Somaliland has long sought international recognition as being its own nation, separate from Somalia. The region is a hotbed of abductions and piracy.
The U.N. compound in Somaliland was hit by a suicide car bomb.
"There are known casualties as well as deaths, but the numbers are currently being verified," said Dawn Elizabeth Blalock, a spokeswoman for the U.N.'s Somalia program in Nairobi, Kenya.
Islamic militants have waged an Iraq-style insurgency against Somali government troops and their Ethiopian allies for almost two years. The nearly daily mortar attacks and gunbattles have killed thousands of Somali civilians in the capital, deaths that all sides blame on each other.
Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, when clan warlords ousted longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on each other. The current government was formed in 2004 with the help of the United Nations, but has failed to protect citizens from violence or the country's poverty.
Ethiopia has troops in Somalia to prop up the weak Somali administration which is battling Islamist rebels.
Somalia's north has tried to sever ties with the chaotic south, which includes the beleaguered capital, Mogadishu. Puntland has a semiautonomous administration.
International leaders, including the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Jendayi Frazer, met Wednesday in Nairobi, Kenya, to discuss Somalia's crisis. Members of Somalia's government, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and some members of Somalia's opposition also attended.
But there were no representatives of the hard-line members of the opposition, who have denounced any talks with the government and are behind much of the bloodshed in the capital, Mogadishu. Al-Shabab, the military wing of Somalia's ousted Islamic movement, has not participated in any talks. The State Department considers al-Shabab, or "The Youth," a terrorist organization.
The meeting ended Monday afternoon with all the participants releasing a statement lamenting the "the lack of unity and unhelpful competition among the leadership" in Somalia and calling for a new Cabinet to be formed within 15 days.
AP Writers Mohamed Sheikh Nor in Mogadishu, Somalia, and Elizabeth A. Kennedy, Tom Maliti and Malkhadir M. Muhumed in Nairobi, Kenya, contributed to this report.