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Radical Somali Youth Group Claims Suicide Attack 


A radical Somali youth group has claimed responsibility for Sunday's suicide attack that killed seven people at the Mogadishu residence of Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu in our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi reports the youth group is believed to have carried out several other attacks against high-level government officials in recent weeks.

In a statement posted on a website used by al-Qaida and other Muslim militants, a group calling itself the Mujahideen Youth Movement identified the suicide bomber as Abdul-Aziz Mohammad Semter and said that he had carried out a "heroic martyrdom operation against an apostate prime minister."

On Sunday, the bomber drove up to Prime Minister Gedi's heavily guarded compound in northern Mogadishu and rammed his explosives-packed vehicle into a wall. The prime minister, who was home at the time, was not hurt, but the ensuing blast killed five guards and two civilians.

The spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia, Captain Paddy Ankunda, says the Somali leader, who survived another assassination attempt just two and a half weeks ago in the capital, has been moved to another location in the city.

"I can confirm that he is well. He is safe and he is unhurt," he said. "He is now in the hands of government security forces."

The Mujahideen Youth Movement is believed to be an off-shoot of the Shabbab, an extremist group that once boasted several thousand members.

The Shabbab was founded about three years ago by the radical former military chief of the Islamic Courts Union, Adan Hashi Ayro. He is wanted by the United States for harboring al-Qaida operatives, who carried out the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa.

Ayro, who was trained by al-Qaida in Afghanistan, fled Mogadishu in late December with other Islamist leaders, as Ethiopian and Somali troops closed in on the capital.

After the Islamists' defeat, the Shabbab disbanded and many of its members melted back into society. But Somalia observer Richard Cornwell at the Institute for Strategic Studies in South Africa says elements of the Shabbab have regrouped in recent months and are trying to extend their reach beyond Mogadishu.

"The Shabbab has splintered into cellular-like groups and is moving throughout Somalia, trying to influence local politics," said Cornwell. "I understand some technicians, who show them how to do remotely-detonated explosions, and some materials, like bombing vests, have been arriving there. I even understand that 300 of these guys have gone up into the Ogaden region in Ethiopia."

It is not clear who has assumed leadership of the Mujahideen Youth Movement. It is equally unclear who is providing assistance to the group.

In the past month, the Mujahideen Youth Movement has taken responsibility for several Iraq-style guerrilla attacks, including roadside bombings against high-ranking Somali officials and the Ethiopian troops protecting them.