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Blasts in Somalia's Puntland Region Kill 20

Two explosions have killed at least 20 people in the port town of Bosasso in the semi-autonomous Puntland region of Somalia. As Derek Kilner reports from VOA's East Africa Bureau in Nairobi, Puntland has generally avoided the violence that has long plagued Somalia.

Puntland government officials said most of the victims were Ethiopian migrants who were likely preparing to cross the Gulf of Aden to Yemen from the port of Bosasso.

Puntland's Minister of Information, Abdulrahman Mohamed Banga said 67 people were injured in the attack late Tuesday, though witnesses have put the figure at more than 100.

Banga said the attack targeted two adjacent Ethiopian-owned restaurants. Thousands of migrants from Ethiopia and Southern Somalia use Bosasso as a launching point for the dangerous passage by water to Yemen. Hundreds die each year attempting the voyage.

Banga said the attacks could be a response to the Puntland government's ties to Ethiopia.

"Well actually we do not know. We are just looking. We cannot say exactly who is after that. Maybe political, those who are against Ethiopian relations in Puntland or against Ethiopian relations to the Somalia Federal Government," he said.

Like the Transitional Federal Government in Southern Somalia, and the breakaway region of Somaliland, Puntland is backed by the Ethiopian government. Puntland's president Adde Muse Hersi left for Ethiopia on Monday to discuss economic and security relations between the countries.

Mr. Banga said residents of Bosasso were "shocked" by the blast. Puntland has remained relatively peaceful, in contrast to the conflict in southern Somalia. Ethiopian troops backing the transitional government there have been fighting an Islamist-led insurgency based in the capital, Mogadishu.

Puntland declared autonomous status in 1998, and unlike neighboring Somiland, hopes to eventually join a united federal Somalia.