[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Suicide bomber hits Somali capital, dozens killed in south

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Tue, 6 Dec 2011 22:19:00 +0100

Suicide bomber hits Somali capital, dozens killed in south

Tue Dec 6, 2011 5:18pm GMT

* Car bomb explodes near Turkish embassy

* Government struggling to control capital

* Dozens killed in fighting in south

* Kenya seeks to re-hat force as peacekeepers

By Mohamed Ahmed and Richard Lough

MOGADISHU/NAIROBI, Dec 6 (Reuters) - A suicide bomber struck the Somali
capital on Tuesday, the latest in a wave of deadly attacks in Mogadishu, and
dozens of Islamist rebels and Somali government troops have been killed in
fighting in the south.

The car bomb exploded 50 metres from the recently reopened Turkish embassy,
near to the Kilometre 4 (K4) junction, a busy intersection in Mogadishu's
administrative district. A health official said at least three people were
killed by the blast.

The suicide attack piles yet more pressure on a Western-backed government
that relies on African Union troops to prop it up and fight an insurgency by
Islamist militants who control virtually all of Somalia outside Mogadishu.

Witnesses told Reuters that the security forces stopped the vehicle earlier,
before moving the car to a quieter sideroad.

"The troops tried to question the driver and take photographs when the
suicide bomber detonated his bomb," Abdiweli Elmi, a policeman on patrol at
the junction said.

Two policemen and one civilian were killed, Elmi said.

A Reuters witness said human body parts could be seen around the
ripped-apart car and security forces fired into the air to disperse the

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack. Suspicion is
likely to fall on al Shabaab rebels.

The al Qaeda-linked militants, who have fought the government since 2007,
have intensified the frequency of suicide attacks in Mogadishu since
withdrawing from most of their bases in the capital in August.

A Turkish government official said the target of the attack was unknown.
None of Turkey's embassy staff hurt.

Turkey was the first state from outside the immediate region to open an
embassy in Mogadishu.

Its interests have been the target of violent incidents since Prime Minister
Tayyip Erdogan visited Mogadishu in August. Erdogan was the first leader
from outside Africa to visit the capital for nearly two decades.


The rebels, who control large swathes of Somalia, are also fighting against
Somali government and Kenyan troops in the rebel-controlled southern and
central parts of the country. Ethiopian forces have also crossed into

More than 40 militants and 11 Somali government troops were killed in
weekend fighting in the town of Hayo, between the Kenyan border and the al
Shabaab stronghold of Afmadow in southern Somalia, a Kenyan military
spokesman said on Tuesday.

Emmanuel Chirchir said Kenyan jets had also launched air strikes on al
Shabaab bases on Monday, and that it was too early to give an assessment of

Kenya is eight weeks into an offensive inside Somalia to crush rebel
networks but the military campaign has become bogged down by heavy rains and
lack of clear strategy, diplomats say.

"(Kenyan) jets targeted two al Shabaab camps south of Afmadow town, killing
a number of al Shabaab fighters, and destroyed technical vehicles," Chirchir
said, referring to the machinegun-mounted trucks used by the militants.

A lawmaker from Somalia's Lower Juba region that borders Kenya and nearby
residents said al Shabaab had only clung on to Hayo for a few hours before
government troops regained control.

The Kenyan government agreed on Tuesday that its force in southern Somalia
should become part of the AU peacekeeping force (AMISOM) in the anarchic

Earlier this month, Kenya offered to boost AMISOM, which numbers about 9,400
and is made up of troops from Uganda and Burundi. Both the AU and regional
bloc IGAD said they supported the idea of integrating the Kenyan soldiers.

"The cabinet ... approved the re-hatting of the Kenya Defence Forces in
Somalia to AMISOM, subject to approval by parliament," the president's
office said.

"This has been done at the request of the African Union to enhance a
combined strategy for the operation against al Shabaab," it said in a

However, analysts said it might not be that straightforward for Kenyan
soldiers to become part of AMISOM - unless Nairobi is prepared to contribute
the cost of its mission in Somalia.

If Kenya wants AMISOM to help fund its operation on the ground as part of
the African Union force, the U.N. Security Council would need to approve
extra funding, analysts said.

The AMISOM force is also capped at 12,000 soldiers. Uganda, Burundi and
Djibouti have already committed to raising troop numbers to the mandated
ceiling by early next year. Raising that limit cap would require a vote at
the U.N.'s Security Council. (Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh in
Mogadishu, Sahra Abdi in Nairobi and Jonathon Burch in Ankara; Writing by
Richard Lough; Editing by Louise Ireland)

C Thomson Reuters 2011 All rights reserved


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