A suicide bomb attack aimed at African Union peacekeepers in Somalia has missed its target and instead killed at least 14 people and injured more than 20 others in the capital, Mogadishu. The African Union condemned the attack as an attempt to undermine the hint of stability that has come to Somalia since Ethiopian troops pulled out of Mogadishu this month.
Mogadishu's deputy governor tells reporters police fired on a bomb-laden car racing toward a checkpoint manned by African Union peacekeepers. The car veered out of control and slammed into a civilian bus, killed all aboard as well as a policeman.
A spokesman for the A.U. force known as AMISOM says no peacekeepers were injured.
An A.U. statement condemned the attack. A.U. Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra called it a cowardly act that runs against the interests of the Somali people and ongoing efforts to restore peace and stability. In a telephone interview, he said such attacks had been expected as extremist groups try to instill fear in the population following the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops from the capital.
"We were expecting some terrorist acts to be aimed at AMISOM. Not long ago a spokesperson for the terrorists group al-Shabab did say AMISOM should be targeted and AMISOM should be dealt with as a foreign occupying force which of course is not the case, AMISOM is there on a peace mission," he said.
Commissioner Lamamra said he is encouraged by the seeming willingness of Somalia's clan elders to engage in a political process aimed at ending 17 years of civil war and anarchy. He said he would not be surprised if extremists try to stage more spectacular attacks, but vowed such acts would not stop efforts to strengthen AMISOM and create and atmosphere of stability. "The fact a minority of extremists engage in such terrorists acts against the civilian population and AMISOM is a dangerous development but something that cannot impede our progress toward achieving the goals the international community has set as necessary to achieve for Somalia and the security of the whole region," he said.
The Mogadishu attack came as members of Somalia's parliament are gathering in Djibouti to elect a leader to replace former President Abdullahi Yusuf, who resigned last month. The agenda also calls for expanding the parliament to include opposition factions that have been cooperating with the transitional federal government as it tries to broaden its base of support, which has been limited to parts of Mogadishu and Baidoa, which has been the seat of parliament.