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Somalia Probes Deadly Bombings

Officials of Somalia's transitional government in Baidoa are reportedly expecting experts from the United States to help investigate Monday's deadly car bombings. The use of car bombs has renewed fear among Somalis that the country is sliding toward the kind of violence engulfing Afghanistan and Iraq.

Mogadishu-based Shabelle Radio says a senior transitional government official has told the station that American explosive and forensic experts have agreed to help officials in Baidoa investigate Monday's assassination attempt on interim President Abdullahi Yusuf.

Two car bombs exploded within minutes of each other after the presidential convoy left a building housing the interim parliament. It is believed that at least one of the vehicles was driven by a suicide bomber.

President Yusuf was not hurt. But several members of his entourage were killed, including the president's younger brother. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

On Wednesday, officials in Baidoa formed a committee of ministers and military experts to probe what may be the country's first-ever suicide bombing. The officials also appealed for international help in determining whether the attack was the work of a terrorist organization, such as al-Qaida.

The United States has accused some senior members of Somalia's Islamist movement, including the group's leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, of having links to al-Qaida and harboring extremists.

In recent years, many Somalis have privately blamed several radical members of the Islamic group, who are believed to have received terrorist training in Afghanistan, of carrying out roadside bombings and a series of assassinations of Somali intellectuals, aid workers, and a BBC journalist in Mogadishu.

Islamist leaders in Mogadishu have repeatedly denied that they have terrorist ties. They have condemned Monday's attack as being un-Islamic and suggested that neighboring Ethiopia, which strongly supports the secular government of President Yusuf, arranged the bombings as a pretext for sending foreign troops to Somalia to fight the Islamists.

Whatever the truth, a Baidoa resident, who refused to be identified for fear of reprisal, tells VOA that the car bombings have convinced many people that Somalia is on the path of becoming another battleground in the global war on terror.

"People are afraid," he said. "They are saying this is becoming Afghanistan. This is becoming another Iraq, even worse than Iraq. Everybody is talking. People are worried what is going to happen next."

On Thursday, several hundred government supporters in Baidoa called for international peacekeepers to be sent to Somalia to help protect the administration, which does not have enough political and military power to move to Mogadishu.

Islamists have threatened to wage a holy war if peacekeepers are deployed in Somalia.

Islamists emerged as a challenge to the fledgling interim government four months ago, when they ousted unpopular factional leaders in Mogadishu after months of bloody battles. Since then, they have rapidly extended their control beyond the capital, installing strict Islamic laws called sharia and vowing to unite the entire country under Islamic rule.