Sunday's suicide car bombing at a military camp in the Somali capital is raising alarm about how much foreign support the radical al-Shabab group may be receiving in its ongoing war against Somalia's U.N.-backed government. An explosion at an alleged al-Shabab safe house in Mogadishu nine days ago may offer some clues.
According to the Puntland-based website Garowe Online, the explosion that shook the Daynile district on the outskirts of Mogadishu on May 17 was the result of one or more bombs detonating prematurely on vehicles being prepared to be used in suicide car bombings.
Quoting unnamed sources, Garowe Online says the blast killed at least 17 people, including four foreigners. There are also unconfirmed reports that al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane was wounded while meeting senior al-Shabab commanders inside the house. Garowe Online sources said faulty wiring caused the explosion.
Residents in Daynile say al-Shabab fighters sealed off the area, making confirmation of the story difficult.
Somali sources tell VOA an increasing number of foreigners from Pakistan, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya, among others, have been arriving in Somalia in recent months on chartered planes, landing at an airstrip near Mogadishu. The unconfirmed reports say some of the foreigners came by road from neighboring Kenya, crossing the poorly-guarded border into al-Shabab held territories in southern Somalia.
The sources say many come to Somalia not to fight, but to work as instructors at more than half a dozen training camps set up by al-Shabab in Lower and Middle Jubba and the Lower Shabelle regions. There, young Somali boys, often recruited at gunpoint, are usually given three months of combat and terrorism training.
Despite support from Islamist factions and the presence of more than 4,000 African Union troops, the Somali government controls only a small area of the capital. Al-Shabab, listed by the United States as a terrorist organization for having links to al-Qaida, controls most of southern and central Somalia, including two large seaports and several airstrips.
On Monday, Somalia's moderate Islamist President Sharif Sheik Ahmed openly acknowledged his government lacked power and resources to stop the flow of foreigners into the country.
The Somali leader says the country is being invaded by foreign fighters, who work for the interests of other countries and whose main purpose is to keep Somalia in chaos. He says the government is calling for the international community and the Somali people to defend the freedom, honor and the nationhood of Somalia.
On Monday, al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the deadly suicide car bombing the day before, which killed nearly a dozen people including the bomber and six government soldiers. Government officials said the attack was carried out by a foreigner, but al-Shabab says the suicide bomber was a Somali from Mogadishu.
Last week, Somalia's security minister Omar Hashi told reporters that foreigners have been spotted fighting in pitched battles against government forces in Mogadishu. Al-Shabab's commander in the Banadir region, where Mogadishu is located, confirmed the report.