Somalia’s prime minister says Tuesday’s suicide bomb attack in Mogadishu shows the increasing desperation of al-Qaida linked forces who still control large parts of the famine-wracked country. The blast killed at least 70 people and injured scores more.
Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali vowed that the bomb blast outside Somalia’s education ministry would increase his transitional government’s resolve to crush the extremist group al-Shabab. "This is the time to intervene, as we cannot watch these cowards to regroup and carry out more vicious and cowardly acts. Most of those killed were students and families waiting to hear results of scholarship exams," he said.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the bombing. A spokesman warned Mogadishu residents to expect more attacks on government buildings.
African Union peacekeepers broke al-Shabab’s three-year stranglehold on Mogadishu in August after weeks of heavy fighting, driving the extremists into rural areas hard hit by famine. Speaking to reporters while on a visit to Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Ali said the hardline Islamist extremists are becoming desperate as people increasingly blame them for blocking distribution of food aid.
"It shows the weakness of al-Shabab. They lost the fight, they lost the battle, and resorting to violence and killing innocent people is the weakness of al-Shabab. Violence against innocent people will not inculcate fear in the people’s mind as they intend to, but this will rather lead to their demise and isolation," Ali stated. "Actually they have already lost hearts and minds of the Somali people."
The prime minister called the bombing a crime, on top of the crime of preventing food aid from reaching desperate Somalis in the famine zone, effectively condemning many people to death.
"Those severely affected by this famine are under the yoke of al-Shabab. They deny access of relief aid to Somalia, and adding again insult to injury this is what they did to the Somali people," Ali noted. "That’s why a lot of them come to Mogadishu for food aid and succor. "
Al-Shabab has a history of suicide attacks against government facilities and African Union peacekeepers. Three government ministers and several newly graduated doctors were among 24 people killed in an attack in Mogadishu in December, 2009.
The extremist group is trying to drive out Prime Minister Ali’s fragile western-backed administration and install a government based on Islamic Sharia law in the strategically located Horn of Africa country.
Western governments fear that an al-Shabab victory would clear the way for al-Qaida to use Somalia as a base for terrorist operations.