Sun, Jun 12, 2011 - Page 6 News List

Somali interior minister dies after suicide blast

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE:The minister, a leading figure in the fight against al-Shabaab rebels, was killed by a blast at his house reportedly triggered by a close female relative

Reuters, MOGADISHU

Somali Interior Minister Abdi Shakur Sheikh Hassan died from wounds suffered after an explosion at his house in the capital, Mogadishu, on Friday, the African Union peacekeepers AMISOM said.

“Unfortunately the minister has just passed away,” AMISOM spokesman Paddy Ankunda said. “We condemn the barbaric acts in the strongest terms. The forces of peace will have their way.”

The minister was wounded after a female suicide bomber attacked his house, the minister’s driver, police and African Union troops said.

His leg had been smashed and shrapnel had got into many parts of his body, senior police officer Nur Farah said.

It was not clear who was behind the attack, which caused no other casualties.

“I was at the gate when a veiled woman went into the house,” Ahmed Mohamed, the minister’s driver, told reporters.

“Suddenly, I heard a loud explosion. I saw the flesh of the suicide bomber in the balcony near the minister’s house. I went into his room and saw him lying injured,” he said.

Relatives said the suicide bomber was also a close relative to the minister, but this could not be independently confirmed.

Mogadishu and other parts of Somalia have been rocked by two days of protests, with demonstrators railing against a deal to extend the mandates of the country’s president and parliament.

Hundreds of supporters of the prime minister, who must resign under the terms of the deal, marched through the city’s rubble-strewn streets chanting support for the prime minister.

Police have warned Mogadishu residents to watch out for attacks by al-Shabaab rebels, who security forces said may take advantage by carrying out attacks.

While al-Shabaab appeared to be on the back foot following a sustained government push in which Hassan was a leading figure, AMISOM has warned a bitter power struggle among the country’s political leaders risks unraveling the military gains.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since the overthrow of president Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

First clan warlords and now al-Shabaab Islamist insurgents ensured the government controls little territory outside parts of the capital Mogadishu.

The driver said he believed the suicide bomber — who was apparently related to maids that work for the minister as well as to the minister himself, and a regular visitor to the house — had intended to enter Hassan’s room, but was stopped by security personnel, at which point she detonated a device.

“She used to come to the house and was never suspected or inspected. She always had veil and face cover. But today she put on explosive belt and jacket under her veils,” he said.

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