News / Africa

Somalia President Survives Attack

Somali government soldiers open fire during ambush by al-Shabaab rebels on the outskirts of Elasha town, May 29, 2012.
Somali government soldiers open fire during ambush by al-Shabaab rebels on the outskirts of Elasha town, May 29, 2012.
VOA News
Somalia's President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed survived an assassination attempt Tuesday by Islamist militants.

Gunmen opened fire on the president's armored convoy in the Alamada area, about 15 kilometers west of the capital, Mogadishu.  He was returning from a visit to the town of Afgoye, which African Union and Somali troops had liberated from the al-Shabab group Monday.

Seynab Abukar, a reporter for the VOA Somali Service who traveled with the convoy, says the president was unharmed, but a bodyguard was killed and seven other people were wounded.

"The attack happened between Alamada and Elasha Biyaha when the convoy of President Sheikh Ahmed was ambushed along with his delegation including the acting prime minister, interior minister and military commanders form AMISOM and Somali forces as well as parliamentarians. It happened at the same place where he stopped by on his way to Afgoye earlier in the morning, where he spoke to the people in the area, asked them about their situation, if they had problems with the government’s troops…and asked them to open the shops," Abukar said. "On the way back, we suddenly we heard gunshots as we drove on the road.  The government troops and AMISOM forces dismounted from the vehicles and took positions, and there was exchange of heavy and small gunfire.  The convoy drove through as the fighting continued.  The death of one soldier is confirmed and seven others were wounded. A member of the president’s delegation, Mohamed Hussein Awliyo, was also wounded. "

Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack.  Authorities say they have arrested four suspects.

Abukar says the presidential convoy reached Afgoye safely for the first time after six years.

The reporter says the president toured Afgoye bridge, the police station and the district offices.  He also visited Sheikh Zaid Farmhouse where he had spoken as the leader of the Islamic courts in 2006."

Also Tuesday, Kenyan warships fired on Port Kismayo, the militants' largest remaining stronghold in Somalia.

Kenyan military spokesman Cyrus Oguna said that warships opened fire after being attacked by al-Shabab fighters on shore.  Oguna said this is the first time Kenya's military has engaged in combat in Kismayo.

Witnesses told VOA's Somali Service that two warships began firing at Kismayo overnight Tuesday.  The attack continued after sunrise, with one shell hitting a house and wounding a child.

Al-Shabab once controlled most of southern and central Somalia, but has steadily lost ground in an offensive by AU, Somali, Kenyan and Ethiopian forces.

Reports from southern Somalia on Monday indicated that al-Shabab leaders were mobilizing fighters in Kismayo and other locations.

Al-Shabab is fighting to overthrow Somalia's transitional government and impose a strict form of Islamic law.

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