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Somali Interior Minister Injured in Roadside Attack


Somalia's interior minister was injured, and one of his guards killed, in a roadside explosion in the capital, Mogadishu. The attack is the latest reminder of the challenges Somalia's new government faces in restoring security to the country.

Interior minister Abdulkadir Ali Omar was attacked in the city's busy Bakara Market. He escaped with an injured leg, but one of his guards was killed.

Omar convened a news conference shortly after the attack.

He said the government would continue to work for peace even if its members are killed. He said that everybody knows each other in Mogadishu and the government knows who is responsible for the attack, but would not accuse any group at the moment.

No one has claimed responsibility, but Islamist insurgents opposed to the government have launched sporadic attacks on government troops and African Union peacekeepers in the capital.

The militias, including the Islamic Party and al-Shabab, which has ties to al-Qaida as well as Somalia's new president Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and many of his ministers, were all members of the same Islamist movement that took control of the country in 2006. President Ahmed was the chairman of the Islamic Courts Union, and Interior Minister Omar the deputy chair.

Ethiopian troops drove the Islamists out of Mogadishu in late 2006, and Islamists waged a two-year insurgency before the Ethiopians withdrew earlier this year. Meanwhile, a faction of more moderate Islamists led by President Ahmed signed up to a U.N.-backed peace process that led to his election shortly after the Ethiopian withdrawal.

Al-Shabab, which maintains the most powerful presence, has dismissed President Ahmed as a western puppet and has vowed to continue opposing his government. The Islamic Party, a group of other Islamist militias has also rejected the new government.

But internal divisions are showing. The Islamic Party said this week that it had replaced its leader, in part because he supported attacks on African Union peacekeepers and government troops that have been opposed by a group of Islamic clerics. But other members of the group have disputed the change in leadership.

Such developments may be a good sign for President Ahmed, who has been trying to gain the support of Islamist militants and to marginalize the most radical elements.

Meanwhile, five employees of Kenya's education ministry were abducted along the border with Somalia. Reports suggest the captors could be members of a militia allied with al-Shabab, which controls much of southern Somalia.

The Kenyans were attending a school event in Madera town and had apparently crossed the border on a shopping trip when they were abducted. They are being held in the town of Bulo Hawo, in Somalia, where officials have said they are investigating reports the Kenyans were spying.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua said the government is in contact with authorities in Somalia.

"We are still investigating at exactly what place were they kidnapped," Mutua said. "Currently various government agencies are working on this issue and are dealing with it at a very high level. We have initiated discussions and talks with the Somali government authorities and other authorities."

People in the area often cross the border between Kenya and Somalia. But attacks are not uncommon either.

Two nuns were abducted from another border town last year. In 2007, two Kenyan police officers were kidnapped and killed by Somali gunmen.
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