A senior minister of the interim government of Somalia was slain Friday as he was leaving prayers at a mosque in the interim government's provincial base, Baidoa. Many fear the attack will further destabilize the Horn of Africa country that is already teetering on the brink of war.
Eyewitnesses say gunmen opened fire on the Constitution and Federalism minister, Abdallah Isaaq Deerow, as he left prayers on Friday. Baidoa's police chief Aadin Biid said one suspect, a 35-year-old man, has been arrested, but the official gave no other details.
In an interview with VOA shortly after the assassination, interim Deputy Prime Minister Ismel Hurreh said that Isaaq was a prominent figure in both the government and the region.
"The intention is to cow the transitional government," he said. "It is too early to point fingers but overall whoever did this is people who are against the implementation of the government and would like the government to fail completely. And the intention could also be to create some sort of clan unrest in this part of the country."
Members of the interim government are scheduled to meet Saturday to discuss a reshuffle of parliament, which many had hoped would open the door for Islamic leaders to join the government. It is hoped by moderates that if the Islamists are invited into the government, there would be a far greater chance of peace negotiations resuming.
Tensions in the country are being further heightened by the presence in Somalia of Ethiopian troops who are backing the interim government against the Islamists. Also, the Eritrean government is supplying the Islamists with arms to aid them against Ethiopian forces.
With Islamist leaders calling for holy war against Ethiopia, and the Ethiopian government promising that they will use force to prevent the setting up of an Islamic theocracy on their border, hopes are fading that a bloody war can be avoided in the country.