MOGADISHU : A Somali lawmaker was assassinated and another wounded on Monday by a car bomb in Mogadishu, the prime minister said, the latest in a series of bomb attacks in the war-ravaged capital.
“Somalia has today lost a committed parliamentarian who worked tirelessly to serve the people of Somalia and help rebuild our country,” Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement, referring to slain MP Isak Mohamed. The attack comes as the government holds a security conference hoping to tackle continued attacks by Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents. “This cowardly attack will not derail the progress made in Mogadishu and across Somalia,” Ahmed added.
Mohamed was killed when a bomb stuck to a vehicle he was in exploded in Mogadishu’s Hamarweyne district, near the port and close to the heavily fortified government district.
His colleague and fellow MP Mohamed Abdi was wounded. “The explosive device was attached to the car of the lawmaker... we are investigating and hunting the perpetrators to bring them to justice,” said Abdukadir Mohamed Abdukadir, commissioner of the Hamarweyne district.
Witnesses said the lawmakers were driving when the explosion occurred. “The car went off as it was passed by... one of them burned to death, the other one was seriously injured,” said Mohamed Adam, a witness.
The Shebab have been driven out of fixed positions in Somalia’s major towns by a UN-mandated African Union force, but still regularly launch attacks that include bombs and guerrilla-style raids.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but AU representative for Somalia Mahamet Saleh Annadif condemned the killing and pointed the finger of blame at the Islamists. “We will continue to fight these extremists who are interested in inflicting violence on innocent civilians,” he said in statement.
Somalia’s political elite are also divided along rival clan lines, and factional infighting is common.
The blast comes a day after Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud opened the three-day security conference, where he claimed that the “culture of lawlessness that has plagued Somalia for the last 23 years is coming to an end.”
Recent Shebab attacks have targeted key areas of government or the security forces, in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities that they are winning the war against the fighters.
The security conference is also addressing the huge challenges faced by the war-ravaged country ahead of scheduled elections due for 2016, despite Shebab staging attacks in the heart of government. “There is a desperate shortage of resources across the whole security infrastructure,” Mohamud admitted Sunday.
In February, Shebab militants carried out a major attack against the heavily fortified presidential palace, killing officials and guards in heavy gun battles.
AU troops fighting alongside Somali government forces launched last month a fresh offensive against Shebab bases, seizing a series of towns, but with the insurgents largely fleeing in advance and escaping unscathed to strike back in guerrilla attacks.