The Somali Police Force yesterday launched a major security operation to search for explosives and weapons, a day after a spectacular suicide attack by Islamist insurgents in the Somalian capital, Mogadishu.
“There is a major security operation under way in Mogadishu,” senior police official Mohamed Hassan said. “So far, more than 400 people have been detained, the operations are aimed at tackling insecurity.”
On Sunday, a nine-man suicide commando blasted its way into Mogadishu’s main court complex, some blowing up their explosive vests, while others sprayed gunfire in a rampage that left 30 civilians dead. A separate bomb attack killed five more.
“At least 30 people died and 20 others were injured. That is from our services and hospital sources,” a coordinator for Mogadishu’s ambulance service, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told reporters.
The militant Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the courthouse attack.
“All vehicles moving in town are subject to security screening while the passengers are being temporarily detained for questioning,” Hassan said.
Security forces have set up road blocks across the city.
“The soldiers are stopping all vehicles and arresting people,” said Ali Ismail, a witness.
“I saw nearly 300 people who were detained and blindfolded near the industrial road. Everyone the security forces set eyes on today is getting arrested,” said Yusuf Ganey, another witness. “This is not a normal operation.”
The Islamist group used to control most of the seaside capital until they abandoned fixed positions in August 2011. However, it has since carried out a string of attacks against the UN-backed Somalian government.
A regional military offensive has forced many al-Shabaab fighters to pull out of a string of key towns, but the insurgents have reverted to guerrilla tactics and have carried out several bomb attacks in Mogadishu.
However, the scale and audacity of the latest attack in the heart of the heavily guarded administrative quarter of the capital has shocked many.
Additional reporting by Reuters