Somali President escapes blast and Islamist blamed Ethiopia.
|Baidoa, Somalia “¢ A car bomb killed five people and wounded several others outside parliament in Somalia’s provincial capital Baidoa yesterday in an assassination attempt on President Abdullahi Yusuf.|
Six attackers were killed in a gunbattle with Yusuf’s bodyguards after the explosion, which took place as lawmakers approved a new cabinet, Foreign Minister Ismail Hurre Buba said.
“A car exploded when the president’s convoy was passing on the way to his residence,”? Hurre said. “It was an assassination attempt on the president.”?
Yusuf escaped unharmed, but Hurre said five people were killed in the blast he said bore the hallmarks of Al Qaeda.
“It was characteristically an (Al) Qaeda-type attempt (with) a car being put next to other cars and an explosion taking place through remote control,”? he said.
A senior Somali official said the unsuccessful bid to assassinate the president was an Al Qaeda-hatched plot.
“Undeniably, this is the work of international terrorism sponsored by Al Qaeda,” the official said.
The attack is sure to heighten tensions in the volatile nation of 10 million, between the internationally recognised but weak government and Islamists who control Mogadishu and a large swathe of southern Somalia.
A Reuters reporter at the scene saw black smoke billowing from burning cars close to the parliament building, which he said appeared to have dead bodies in them.
Government militiamen quickly cordoned off the area around the parliament building, a converted grain warehouse in the town 240km from the capital Mogadishu.
Scores of relatives thronged Baidoa’s main hospital, where one casualty was admitted with his hand blown off.
Both Minister Hurre and Islamist spokesman Abdirahim Ali Mudey said Monday’s violence was linked to the murder on Sunday of an Italian nun shot in Mogadishu.
“We think that the attempt in Baidoa is associated with the assassination of the Italian nun. Whoever was behind that is behind this,”? Hurre told a news conference in Nairobi.
But senior Islamist leader Sheikh Sharif Ahmed blamed foreign interference, singling out Ethiopia, which witnesses and regional experts say has deployed troops to Somalia to protect the government in its second year of power. “I accuse foreign sides, particularly Ethiopia because it seeks to send foreign troops (to Somalia) and wants to justify its position at the United Nations,”? Ahmed told Al Jazeera.