The international community has condemned the killing of Somalia's security minister in a suicide car bombing Thursday and reiterated its support for the fragile government in Mogadishu. Somalia's al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab group has claimed responsibility for the attack amid separate reports that the militant group may also be preparing to attack neighboring Kenya.
statement issued by the United Nations, European Union, African Union,
the East African Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, and the
League of Arab States strongly condemned Thursday's bombing, which
killed Somalia's Security Minister Omar Hashi Aden, a former Somali
ambassador to Ethiopia, and at least 40 others at a hotel in Beletweyne
near the Ethiopian border.
The statement described the suicide bombing as "deplorable" and "cowardly," adding that extremists in Somalia are not only a threat to Somalia, but to the region and the world. The signatories offered their condolences and repeated their pledge to fully support the shaky five month-old government of moderate Islamist leader President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.
The bombing in Beledweyne is the latest of about a dozen Iraq-style suicide attacks in Somalia since 2006. The first bombing occurred shortly before Ethiopia, with U.S. support, sent troops to Somalia to oust the Islamic Courts Union from power. Since then, suicide bombers have targeted government officials, Ethiopian and Somali forces, and Ugandan and Burundian troops deployed in the capital Mogadishu as part of a 4,300-member African Union peacekeeping mission.
As an Islamist opposition leader in Eritrea where he was based after the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, President Ahmed rarely spoke out against such attacks. But last year, the cleric and his supporters broke ranks and signed a peace agreement with the country's Ethiopia-backed secular government.
After his election in January as president of an expanded transitional government, President Ahmed tried to reconcile with the opposition and made moves to install Islamic law in Somalia. But al-Shabab and other militant groups rejected the peace overtures and intensified their efforts to overthrow the government.
On Thursday, the Somali leader told reporters in Mogadishu that al-Qaida, through its allies in Somalia and an increasing number of foreign fighters, is attacking the country. He says the government has no choice but to respond to the threat.
President Ahmed says Somalia is being attacked by terrorist groups, who do not want to see Somalis united and living in peace.
Somalia's slain security minister was a former commander of the Islamic Courts Union, whose forces fought with al-Shabab against Ethiopian troops in Somalia. According to VOA sources in Somalia, the reason why al-Shabab may have targeted Omar Hashi Aden is because he recently went to Beledweyne with a militia unit, which had reportedly received training in Ethiopia.
Al-Shabab, along with an allied militant nationalist group called Hisbul Islam, accuses the Somali government of cooperating with Ethiopia and allowing Ethiopian troops to re-establish bases inside Somalia.
Fresh tensions are also rising in neighboring Kenya. On Thursday, Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper reported that an al-Shabab official in the southern Somali town of Kismayo threatened to attack Kenya unless the east African nation withdrew its military force from their common border.
The newspaper says Kenyan troops at the border have intercepted illegal goods from Somalia, which the government believes are being sold here to raise money for al-Shabab. The report says the government in Nairobi also fears that weapons are being smuggled into Kenya from Somalia in such shipments.