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[Dehai-WN] (Reuters): Car bomb rocks Somali capital, al Shabaab says responsible

From: Berhane Habtemariam <Berhane.Habtemariam_at_gmx.de_at_dehai.org>
Date: Thu, 22 Mar 2012 15:15:33 +0100

Car bomb rocks Somali capital, al Shabaab says responsible

Wed Mar 22, 2012 5:53pm GMT

* Car bomb wounds two in Mogadishu administrative district

* Bomb disposal experts called to second car

* Four killed, seven wounded in grenade attack on Baidoa tax office (Adds
attack in Baidoa)

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU, March 21 (Reuters) - A car bomb exploded in the heart of the
Somali capital on Wednesday, wounding two people, and the rebel al Shabaab
group said its members had carried out the attack.

Hours later, four civilians were killed and seven wounded when a grenade was
thrown into a government tax office in the southern city of Baidoa,
witnesses said.

The Mogadishu blast, which triggered bursts of gunfire in the city, was the
latest in a wave of bomb attacks in the country where the embattled
U.N.-backed government is struggling to secure the city against al
Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels.

"We were behind the car bomb explosion. We targeted security forces," Sheikh
Abdiasis Abu Musab, a spokesman for al Shabaab military operations, told
Reuters of the blast in the busy administrative district, near the bustling
Kilometre 4 junction.

Police said four suspects had been detained and that they were investigating
a second suspicious vehicle in the city.

There has been a surge in suicide bombings and remotely detonated blasts in
Mogadishu since al Shabaab pulled most of its fighters out of the coastal
city in August, vowing to turn increasingly to al Qaeda-inspired tactics.

Al Shabaab carried out a truck bombing in October which killed more than 70
people, its deadliest attack since the rebellion began in 2007. A spate of
smaller attacks followed.

The militants have been weakened in past months, on the back foot against
African Union soldiers in Mogadishu and losing territory to Kenyan and
Ethiopian forces in southern and central Somalia. There are also signs of
growing internal divisions within the rebel ranks.

Piracy has also flourished in the chaos of the last two decades. On
Wednesday, pirates freed British hostage Judith Tebbutt more than six months
after seizing her and shooting dead her husband, saying they had received a


In Mogadishu, witnesses told Reuters the explosives-packed car had been
parked on Maka al Mukarram road between K4 and the presidential palace,
arousing the suspicions of security forces who blocked off traffic.

"We got a man with the remote control seconds after he detonated the car. We
also arrested three other suspects," police spokesman Abdullahi Barise said.

A Reuters photographer who saw the wrecked car said one of the wounded, who
was taking photos of the vehicle when it blew up, was bleeding heavily and
crying out in pain as onlookers helped him. One family fled their house just
metres away moments before the bomb exploded.

Several hours later, police said they had cordoned off the K4 intersection
to investigate another vehicle abandoned in an area used by waiting taxis.

"We didn't recognise the car. All taxi drivers fled the parking. It is a
suspected car bomb," witness Jama Hussein said. Security forces were holding
people back.

In the southern city of Baidoa, which Ethiopian and Somali troops seized
from al Shabaab last month, witnesses said at least four civilians were
killed and seven wounded when a grenade was hurled at a recently reopened
government tax office.

"The tax office is in the market. Traders have been paying cash to al
Shabaab for the last three years. Now the government started collecting tax
after it ousted them," Baidoa shopkeeper Hassan Abdiqader told Reuters.

Losing control of Baidoa was considered a major tactical blow to al Shabaab,
which is battling Kenyan troops to hold on to territory in southern Somalia
and dighting African Untion troops around the capital.

(Additional reporting by Mohamed Ahmed in Nairobi; Writing by Richard Lough;
Editing by Yara Bayoumy and Tim Pearce)

C Thomson Reuters 2012 All rights reserved



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