Assailants fired mortar shells at the Mogadishu airport as a plane carrying a US congressman took off on Monday, officials said. The plane departed safely, but 19 Somalis were reported wounded in surrounding residential areas.
US Representative Don Payne, who met with Somalia’s top leaders during his one-day visit, said that he had no idea of the violence until reaching Kenya after the flight from Mogadishu, one of the most dangerous cities in the world and rarely visited by foreign travelers.
“We found out when we arrived in Nairobi,” the chairman of the House subcommittee on Africa said.
He said that the aircraft noise probably drowned out the sound of the mortars.
The Islamic extremist group al-Shabab claimed responsibility in a posting on a militant Web site, saying it launched the mortar barrage after learning of Payne’s visit, the terrorism monitoring group SITE said.
The militants, who have been suspected of links to al-Qaeda and have carried out widespread attacks in Somalia, said they “will welcome each and every arrogant and proud enemy of Allah” with similar attacks. “What happened to [Payne] and his escorts was only the beginning.”