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11 Killed In Attempt On Somali President's Life
In an attack blamed on those responsible for the weekend murder of an Italian nun in Mogadishu, five members of President Abdillahi Yusuf Ahmed's entourage and six purported assassins died in powerful blasts that rocked the town of Baidoa, the minister said.
Yusuf was unhurt in the incident but his younger brother, Abdulsalam Yusuf Ahmed, was among those killed, foreign minister Ismail Mohamed Hurre told reporters in the Kenyan capital where he is on an official visit.
"Five people were killed from the presidential convoy and three wounded. Six attackers were also killed and two captured," he said, blaming the blasts on the same people who killed the elderly nun at a Mogadishu hospital Sunday.
"Those who were behind the assassination of the Italian nun are also behind this attack, targeting not only the president, but also the whole democratic process," Hurre said.
Hurre said that security forces were pursuing several attackers who escaped after the blasts in Baidoa, the temporary seat of Somalia's weak transitional government about 250 kilometers (155 miles) northwest of Mogadishu.
In Baidoa officials and witnesses said that two powerful blasts rocked the town while Yusuf was driving away from the parliament building - a converted warehouse - in a convoy, shortly after he delivered a speech.
The first came from an apparently remote-controlled detonated car bomb and sent a huge ball of flame into the sky, destroying numerous vehicles parked in front of parliament, they said.
"There were screams everywhere," witness Sahad Mohamed Abukar said.
A second blast occurred about 15 minutes later, witnesses said and a senior police official said that he had seen the bodies of at least four dead people lying in pools of blood at the scene.
Suleiman Olad Robleh, a member of parliament, said that no one inside the building had been injured and that after the blasts the lawmakers had gone ahead and approved Yusuf's nominations for a new cabinet.
The new slate is hoped to ease fractious government infighting that has left the administration unable to exert control over much of the country and seriously challenged by the rise of Somalia's Islamist movement.
The Islamists seized Mogadishu from warlords in June after months of fierce fighting and have since rapidly expanded their territory, enforcing strict Sharia law in what many see as a direct threat to the government.
Despite an interim peace accord reached earlier this month between the Islamists and the government, the two sides are deeply divided over several key issues, including the proposed deployment of a regional peacekeeping force.
The Islamists have vowed to fight the proposed 8,000-strong mission by the east African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) grouping, to be known as IGASOM, if it is sent to Somalia.
Hurre declined to speculate as to who was behind the blasts but suggested that they were probably linked to the proposed peacekeeping mission.
"I am not accusing anybody at this stage, but there were some people who were claiming to fight IGAD and Somalia is part of IGAD," he said. "We call for a rapid deployment of IGASOM."
Somalia, a Horn of Africa nation of some 10 million, has been without a functioning central government for the past 16 years.
Yusuf's administration is the latest in more than a dozen attempts to restore stability to the nation since it was plunged into anarchy with the 1991 ouster of strongman Mohamed Siyad Barre.
But since it was created two years ago in neighboring Kenya, it has been wracked by infighting and there have been two unsuccessful attempts to kill Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi.