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Somalia’s New President Survives Suicide Bombings

Three suicide bombers attacked the temporary residence of the new president of Somalia as he was giving a news conference on Wednesday, killing an African Union soldier but failing to assassinate any political leaders, witnesses and officials said.
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The Somali president, Hassan Sheik Mohamud, had only just been elected to his post by the newly created Parliament on Monday, taking the helm of a fledgling government that is supposed to represent a tangible step toward permanent governance in a country that has been without it for more than 20 years.

Two of the suicide bombers struck, one near the gate and one at the back of the Jazeera Hotel near the airport as the president was giving a briefing for the news media with the visiting Kenyan foreign minister, Samson K. Ongeri.

Another attacker was shot as he tried to scale the walls of the compound, according to a statement from the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

The attack did not interrupt the news conference and the president continued his speech. “This is the Mogadishu we are trying to change,” he said.

Mr. Mohamud was moved to the presidential palace. A statement from his office said that he called the attacks an unsuccessful attempt to demoralize the Somali people. “What happened today, and any other similar attempt, will not divert our focus and our promise,” the statement said.

The attack stood in sharp contrast to the welcoming cheers Somalis have offered the new president.

“I was covered with dust as I was walking on the street near the hotel, and I saw several people lying on the ground,” said Mohamed Farah, who was passing by. “This is a shocking incident reminding us of our long-gone days, but we are expecting brighter future now.”

There were conflicting death tolls after the attack, but the spokesman of the African Union mission, Col. Ali Hamud, confirmed at least four deaths and noted that investigations were still under way.

“Four people have been killed in the attack, among them an African Union soldier,” Colonel Hamud said, “We have secured the hotel.”

The Shabab, an Islamist insurgent group linked to Al Qaeda, claimed responsibility for the attack. The government and African Union forces have driven the Shabab out of Mogadishu, but it has been waging relentless attacks against the government and the African forces through suicide and roadside bombs and assassinations. Kenya has also joined in the fight, crossing the border to invade parts of Somalia to fight the Shabab, which it considers a major security threat.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, and the election of the new president on Monday officially marked the end of the internationally backed transitional government and the start of a permanent one.

Many Somalis hope the change is a significant step forward that will help end of the country’s cycle of violence, famine and dire poverty.

“The enemies of peace will not be tolerated to spoil this historic moment for the people of Somalia, who on Monday successfully completed the transition to representative government,” Lt. Gen. Andrew Gutti, the commander of the African Union force, said in a statement.

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Posted by on Sep 13 2012. Filed under English News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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