VOA's U.N. Correspondent Margaret Besheer contributed to this report from New York.
WASHINGTON - At least six of the most severely wounded people in Wednesday’s suicide attack in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, have been airlifted to Qatar for treatmen, Somali government officials said.
“A military ambulance jet from Qatari Armed Forces have taken the wounded to Doha for treatment,” Mogadishu regional spokesperson, Salax Hassan Omar, told VOA Somali.
Among those on board was the mayor of the Somali capital Mogadishu, Abdirahman Omar Osman — who also is the governor of Banadir.
Osman was severely wounded in Wednesday’s attack as he was meeting with his deputies and the city's district chairpersons about security challenges.
Deputy Mayor Mohamed Tulah said eight people, including three district commissioners and three regional directors, were killed in the attack.
It is unclear how the bomber got past tight security and several metal detectors, and into the compound.
Regional spokesperson Omar said authorities suspect the bomber was a woman and an investigation is ongoing.
“It looks to be a coordinated attack and like someone inside was helping the bomber. The security agencies are closely investigating the incident, and they are looking at all of the surveillance cameras in and around the regional headquarters compound. Once the investigation is over, we would immediately share the details,” said Omar.
According to government security officials, if the investigation establishes the bomber was a woman, it would be the fourth time al-Shabab has used a female bomber in its almost regular attacks against Somali government officials, the African Union Peacekeepers and civilian targets, including hotels and restaurants.
Who was the target?
Al-Shabab immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, and the terrorist group says it was targeting the U.N. Special Envoy to Somalia James Swan, an American national, who had met with the mayor prior to the attack.
But U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told VOA’s Margaret Besheer during Thursday's daily U.N. briefing in New York that they had nothing linking Wednesday’s attack to Swan.
“We don’t have any particular info connecting the bombing to Mr. Swan. As you are aware, there is a considerable amount of violence in Mogadishu and we’ve expressed our concerns about that over the years," Haq said. “Mr. Swan had been present at that site, but that had been some time prior to the attack. We don’t have any particular information connecting it to the targeting of our envoy.”
When asked about the safety of the U.N. staff in Mogadishu during the briefing, Haq said, “The Secretary-General intends to write to Mr. Swan and the U.N. staff in Mogadishu. We will be conveying a message to them of our solidarity with their work and our concern for their safety.”
He added that they would review all security protocol and take any necessary measures to bolster it.