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Former US Official Says Political Solution is the Only Way Out to Somalia's Crisis

Somali officials say interim Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi escaped injury today after a hand grenade was thrown near his convoy in the capital, Mogadishu. No one was hurt in the incident.

On Wednesday, four African Union peacekeepers and a civilian were killed by a roadside bomb in the capital. The soldiers, all Ugandan, were patrolling near Mogadishu's old seaport when the blast struck their convoy. Five other soldiers were wounded. No one has claimed responsibility, but an AU spokesman says the commission believes al-Qaida was behind the attack.

Ambassador Herman Cohen teaches international relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington. He previously served as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs. Ambassador Cohen says he is not surprised by the ongoing violence in the capital Mogadishu.

“The transitional government is not very popular there, and the Islamist fighters have gone underground. They certainly will not give up and they will continue to have ambushes. And the Ethiopians of course are considered to be occupiers and invaders rather than liberators. So there’s going to be constant attacks and ambushes until some sort of political solution can be brought about,” he said.

Ambassador Cohen said during its time in power, the Islamic Courts Union did “a very good job of stabilizing southern Somalia and bringing peace.” Unfortunately, he said, the Islamic Courts’ militias “were taken over by jihadists determined to attack the Ethiopian forces.” He said while Ethiopia “exaggerates” the Islamic threat, Ethiopian forces were indeed attacked in Baidoa. “It then had no choice but to go in and destroy the Islamist forces,” he said.

Ambassador Cohen said many Somalis reject the transitional government because it lacks inclusiveness and is seen a puppet of Ethiopia. He said a precipitous Ethiopian withdrawal from Somalia will prove detrimental as would a prolonged stay there. Under the circumstances, he said Ethiopia seems “more or less trapped” for now.