MOGADISHU : Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab claimed responsiblity for shooting dead a lawmaker and wounding another on Thursday, the latest in a surge of attacks in Mogadishu during Ramazan.
“This was a targeted assassination. We also wounded another MP and two body guards,” Shebab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP.
A witness said MP Ahmed Mohamud Hayd, a former minister and a senior army commander, was killed in the capital’s port district, one of the most heavily policed areas in the heart of the city. “We will continue to hunt other MPs if they do not leave the apostate organisation,” Abu Musab added.
Gunmen in a car opened fire on the lawmakers as they left a hotel, spraying bullets at the small group of people. The district is close to both parliament and the presidential palace. “The gunmen were driving in an expensive car and escaped after the killing. Police and other security forces sealed off the area,” said Abdi Liban, a witness.
The Shebab have vowed to intensify attacks during Ramazan. “They were going to attend a parliament session when they have come under attack. One of the lawmakers was confirmed dead,” fellow MP Abdi Bare Yusuf told reporters after the attack.
Shebab fighters fled fixed positions in Mogadishu three years ago and have since lost most large towns to a 22,000-strong UN-backed African Union force, fighting alongside government soldiers.
But they still hold sway in vast swathes of the rural hinterland from which they regularly launch guerrilla raids.
Recent Shebab attacks in Somalia have targeted key areas of government and security forces in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities and AU troops that they are winning the war.
Five blasts were reported on Monday, including a roadside bomb that killed at least two people when it ripped through a market busy with shoppers buying food to celebrate the breaking of the Ramazan fast with their families at sunset.
Security has been boosted in the capital, and Somali President Hassan Sheik Mohamud gave a televised address at the start of Ramazan saying his government would do all it could to stop attacks.
Foreign diplomats say the Shebab threaten several nations in East Africa, including Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, who all have troops in Somalia.
The attacks come amid repeated warnings that Somalia risks sliding back into acute crisis less than three years after a devastating famine caused by weak rains, violence and aid cutbacks.
Somalia was the hardest hit by extreme drought in 2011 that affected over 13 million people across the Horn of Africa, with famine zones declared in large parts of the war-ravaged south.