Eight people killed in Somalia attacks

Officials blame rising insurgency's efforts to bring down transitional government

June 16, 2007|By Edmund Sanders | Edmund Sanders,Los Angeles Times

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- A string of attacks in Somalia's capital, including a suicide bombing by a motorcyclist, killed eight people and wounded 10 yesterday, the latest examples of a rising insurgency aimed at toppling the transitional government.

In an apparently coordinated attack, three blasts rocked parts of Mogadishu between 1 p.m. and 2 p.m. The suicide bomber rammed his motorcycle into a pickup truck of government soldiers guarding the deputy major, killing five people, including the bomber, witnesses said.

"I assume they want to terrorize us, but this will not deter us," said Mohammed Osman, the deputy mayor, who was unharmed.

He blamed the attack on Islamist fighters who were routed from Mogadishu in December when Ethiopian troops crossed the border to help Somalia's weak transitional government seize control of the capital.

Somalia has been without a functioning government since a 1991 coup, which plunged the nation into civil war.

Minutes after the first attack yesterday, a roadside bomb exploded outside a United Nations Development Program compound along the road to Mogadishu's airport. The blast missed a convoy of troops and killed three bystanders, witnesses said.

A third roadside bomb damaged a government convoy in northern Mogadishu, but without casualties.

Yesterday's violence followed an attack Thursday on a cinema in Baidoa, about 150 miles northwest of the capital. Four moviegoers were killed by a grenade blast as they left the theater. Insurgents had complained that the theater showed racy movies.

The night before in Mogadishu, insurgents attacked Ethiopian troops in three neighborhoods at the same time, resulting in brief but heavy firefights that echoed throughout the city. At least one person was reported killed.

Insurgents say they will continue to use Iraq-style guerrilla warfare to unseat the transitional government and chase out Ethiopian troops, whom they view as occupying forces.

"If the infidel-backed government thinks they can win the hearts and minds of the people, they are fooling themselves," said aN Islamic militant who requested anonymity. "The worst is yet to come."

He said the cinema attack and other recent strikes were the work of a group calling itself Al Shabab al Mujahedin, a militant wing of the former Islamic Courts Union, an alliance of religious leaders that controlled Mogadishu until December.

U.S. and Ethiopian government officials accused the Islamic union of having links to terrorist groups.

Somali officials said they are making progress in battling the insurgency. Fierce fighting between government troops and insurgents between February and May killed nearly 2,000 people, including many civilians, but it left the government in control of most of the capital.

Mogadishu leaders gathered yesterday at an Ethiopian military base to show off their latest seizure of hundreds of weapons, including tank shells, hand grenades and missiles. Ethiopian troops have conducted house-to-house searches as part of a citywide disarmament campaign.

Edmund Sanders writes for the Los Angeles Times.

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