Tag Archives: Somalia

Somalia – Al Shabab attack on AMISOM central region

BBC
Somalia’s al-Shabab attack army hotel in Bulo-burde
mali Islamist fighters have attacked a hotel in a strategic central town the militants lost control of last week.

A car bomb exploded outside the hotel in Bulo-burde where African Union (AU) peacekeepers and Somali army commanders were staying, witnesses told the BBC.

Gunfire continued for five hours and about 14 people – fighters from all sides – died, they said.

The al-Shabab Islamist group said it was behind the attack and that 30 AU and army commanders had been killed.

The authorities have yet to comment on the attack and communications to the central Hiran region went down not long after the fighting and gunfire ended, the BBC’s Ibrahim Aden reports from the capital, Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab, which is linked to al-Qaeda, has waged an eight-year insurgency to overthrow the weak UN-backed government and create an Islamic state in Somalia.

Key bridge
Witnesses said the car blast happened at 02:00 local time (23:00 GMT) and the fighting went on till about 07:00.

About 24 people were also wounded in the raid and have been taken to hospital, they said

Our correspondent says al-Shabab had occupied Bulo-burde for more than five years.

The town, which has a strategic bridge over the River Shabelle and is at a crossroads linking various regions of the country, was an important base for al-Shabab.

Bulo-burde was captured as part of an ongoing AU and government offensive against al-Shabab, which controls much of south and central Somalia.

Somalia’s militants have pledged loyalty to al-Qaeda
The 22,000-strong AU force (Amisom) is helping the government battle the militants.

Al-Shabab lost control of Mogadishu in 2011, but has intensified bombings and mortar raids in the city in recent weeks.

Al-Shabab at-a-glance

“The Youth” in Arabic
Formed as a radical offshoot of the Union of Islamic Courts, which controlled Mogadishu, in 2006
Controls most of southern Somalia
Estimated to have 5,000 fighters
Announced merger with al-Qaeda in 2012

Meanwhile, Amisom spokesman Col Ali Adan Humad has denied there were any casualties when an Amisom convoy was attacked near its base in Arbiska outside Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab had released a statement saying that seven Burundian peacekeepers and five American nationals travelling in the vehicles were killed on Monday afternoon.

Last month, al-Shabab fighters stormed Villa Somalia, the seat of government in Mogadishu, killing at least 11 people.
Amisom and Somali government forces march around Bulo-burde after its capture last week

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-26626335

Somalia – army and Ethiopians retake Bay and Bakool areas from al-Shabab

VoA/allAfrica

Somalia: Somali, AU Troops Retake Towns From Al-Shabab

By Gabe Joselow

Nairobi — Somali government and African Union forces say they have recaptured territory that was held by the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab. A government official says the offensive is just the start of a fresh effort to oust the group from its remaining strongholds in Somalia.

Somali forces were supported by Ethiopian soldiers who belong to the AU force AMISOM in the operations against al-Shabab, which began on Friday.

“So far, over the weekend, we had at least five towns in Bay and Bakool region that Somali National Forces and AMISOM recaptured from al-Shabab,” government spokesman Abdirahman Omar Osman told reporters, adding that there were no major setbacks.

Major battle

Two of the towns are in the Gedo region, including Burdhubo, which VOA’s Somali service reports is home to one of the largest al-Shabab bases in southern Somalia.

Residents reported hearing heavy fighting in the area on Friday, although an AMISOM spokesman told VOA that al-Shabab fighters are mostly retreating when they see the AU soldiers coming.

Regional forces had been successful in driving the militants out of major cities in the past, but until the recent operations, had not reclaimed significant ground since Kenyan troops took control of the port city of Kismayo in 2012.

“Our aim is to not stop this operation until we take over all the districts, all the areas that al-Shabab currently occupies,” Osman said. He said the weekend fighting is just the beginning of a much larger military campaign.

Humanitarian aid

To avoid power vacuums in newly liberated towns, Osman said the first priority for the government is to provide humanitarian aid, then to establish local administrations to deliver basic services.

In an audio statement posted on a pro-jihadi website, al-Shabab leader Ahmed Abdi Godane called for Somali citizens to take up arms against foreign forces.

“I call upon the fighters to defend the religion and to fight against the enemies,” he said. “Ethiopian soldiers who have come thousands of kilometers should not outlast you,” said Godane.

Al-Shabab, which seeks to establish Islamic law across Somalia, continues to control territory in some parts of the country and also retains the ability to wreak havoc in the capital Mogadishu.

Last month, al-Shabab fighters stormed the presidential palace, Villa Somalia. The president was unharmed but 17 people were killed.  allAfrica

Bomb attack on Somali presidential palace

BBC

Somali presidential palace: ‘Car bomb’ attack in Mogadishu

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was in the building during the attack

 

A car bomb has exploded at the gates of Somalia’s presidential palace, followed by an attack by gunmen, police in Mogadishu say.

A fierce gunfight is now said to be underway inside the compound.

President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has called the UN envoy to Somalia to say he was not harmed during the attack, envoy Nick Kay has tweeted.

The UN-backed government is battling al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabab for control of the country.

Senior police officer Abdikadir Ahmed told the Reuters news agency the fighting was going on in the house of a military commander within the presidential compound, near the palace.

“The car bomb hit and exploded and other al-Shabab cars with armed men drove inside the palace, and heavy fighting is still going on,” he said.

Mr Kay said: “Sadly some lives lost. I condemn strongly this terrorism.”

BBC

Somalia’s economic challenges

IRIN

Five challenges for Somalia’s economic reconstruction

View over a section of Baraka market in Mogadishu

NAIROBI (IRIN) – Somalia’s economy has managed to survive state collapse, maintaining reasonable levels of output throughout the country’s two-decade-long civil war. Now, with political recovery and transition slowly underway, the country’s economy faces new hurdles.
Investors have come to Somalia looking to cash in on the rebuilding process and abundant natural resources in areas such as agriculture and livestock, fisheries, and oil and gas. More innovative fields, such as mobile technology, have also been taking off, although they still only impact a minority of the population (22.5 out of every 100 inhabitants have a mobile phone subscription in Somalia, significantly lower than the developing world average of 84.3).
It is hoped these developments will lay the groundwork for broader economic growth. The second pillar of the president’s Six Pillar Strategy to stabilize the country is economic recovery. In line with this, Somalia aims to build a transparent, formalized, globally competitive economy that collects tax revenues.
But the government faces a number of challenges as it works towards these goals. IRIN looks at some of the most pressing problems.
Certification
Somalia’s government does not have the capacity to participate in certification schemes or to provide authenticity documentation that would enable businesses to sell goods globally. Firms instead have to find unconventional, and often costly, workarounds.
Although sesame seeds are grown in large quantities in Somalia – in 2012 the country was the 12th largest producer in the world – exporting them is a challenge.
“Just before the famine, there was a very good season of sesame, and I remember talking with a businessman who explained he was forced to take the sesame in Somalia and nationalize it in some way in Indonesia to sell it to Germany,” said Luca Alinovi, regional director of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) at a recent event in Nairobi on Somalia’s foreign direct investment prospects. “This is quite an inefficient way to deal with it – but the only way if you’re not able to have a proper certificatory regime, a proper EPA [Economic Partnership Agreement] between Somalia and Europe.”
Alinovi notes that similar mechanisms are used when it comes to exporting many fishery products.
“This means that the government of Somalia loses money,” he said. “We need to have much stronger capacity to support the country and the people to have those regulatory frameworks which help the people do business properly.”
Trade difficulties
Somalia is not a member of any regional economic blocs, and it has few formal trade deals with other nations. The US and the European Union currently have no trade agreements with Somalia, and the country is not a member of the World Trade Organization, compounding the difficulties local firms face when competing regionally and internationally.
In 2012, Somalia exported goods worth US$693 million (509 million euros), according to data from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade. While this represents a significant increase – in 2008, exports were less than half that number – the country still runs a large trade deficit. In 2012, its imports were valued at $1,818 billion (1,335 million euros).
It also exports less than other countries: Somalia is the 171st largest exporter in the world, and it has the fourth lowest GDP per capita, according to the CIA World Factbook.
Somalia’s biggest export market is to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which takes in more than half its total exports. Just three countries (UAE, Yemen and Oman) account for 82.5 percent of all exports, predominantly in livestock, out of Somalia.
Regional partners often impose strict restrictions on Somalia, mainly out of security fears. “Borders sometimes are closed,” said Hassan Noor, CEO of Hanvard Africa, a consultant firm that focuses on East Africa. “People fly from Mogadishu direct to Istanbul. They can fly to Dubai. But they can’t fly to the next-door neighbor.” (There are no direct flights between Mogadishu and Ethiopia, for example, although there are to Djibouti, Kampala and Nairobi.)

A woman buys meat from a local butchery in Mogadishu

As a result, businesses have to go to great lengths to trade with other countries. “Businesses register in Dubai in order to get access to finance and the like,” said Nick Haslam of advisory firm Adam Smith International.
This also means that businesses are less transparent. “Who is behind certain business sectors? It’s like an onion. Every time you peel some layer, you discover other friends behind it without necessarily being very officially present,” added Alinovi.
Currency reform
Restoring the credibility of Somalia’s currency will also be crucial to economic development. The Central Bank has identified “the introduction of new and unified currency” for Somalia as one of its strategic goals for the next five years.
“There were (and still are) several versions of the same currency (Shilling) in circulation concurrently, and most of them are fake currencies,” the bank noted in its Strategic Plan 2013-2018.
Since the early 1990s, no bank notes have been printed officially. “The collapsing of the Central Bank and the banking system left a vacuum for monetary and regulatory control and totally shattered the country’s payment system,” noted the report. This led to “currency substitution and the growth of the parallel currency market,” with warlords and militias issuing their own currency.
This means that there is a large black market for currency. Officially, Somalia’s shilling trades at around 1,200 to the US dollar, but it is about 15 times that rate on the black market.
In mid-2013, the International Monetary Fund resumed relations with Somalia after 22 years. For now, it will not provide loans to the country, but it pledged to provide technical assistance and highlighted currency reform as a major priority.
But the Central Bank is still struggling. Central Bank Governor Yussur Abrar resigned in November after just seven weeks, citing claims of corruption and government interference, and while an interim leader has been appointed, the Bank has yet to find a full-time replacement.
“There’s a lack of capacity, and also there’s huge corruption,” said Shirwa Jama, the International Development Law Organization’s Somalia country representative. But he noted that “all these things can really be addressed if the government has the commitment to improve rule of law, to capacitate and work with international partners.”
Managing oil deals and revenue
Nowhere are the problems and potential of the Somali economy better exemplified than in the oil and gas industry.
There are massive reserves, and even before the collapse of government, large firms were exploring the possibility of mining oil and gas. But lack of legislation and political wrangling at regional and national levels impede development in this sector.
“There is currently growing hostility between the Federal Government of Somalia and regional administrations that have signed oil deals independently of the government,” a UN Monitoring group on Somalia and Eritrea noted in a July letter to the Security Council. Divergence between the 2008 petroleum law – which is invoked by Federal Government petroleum officials – and Somalia’s Constitution is exacerbating this hostility.”
Some large firms, including BP, Chevron and ConocoPhillips still hold exploration rights dating back to before the civil war and have had discussions with the central government. In August, Soma Oil and Gas, a British firm founded earlier in 2013, signed an agreement with Mogadishu to begin exploring oil – much to the chagrin of the Puntland and Somaliland governments, which have separate deals with other firms.
It remains unclear how old contracts will be resolved and who will have the ultimate right to negotiate new deals. “Oil and gas has huge potential, but the current uncertainty surrounding federal and regional states and the lack of agreement over resource sharing and taxation means that it will be very difficult for that sector to take off until those issues are resolved,” noted Haslam.
Social engagement
There is also a need to ensure that economic growth benefits the people, especially as foreign direct investment grows.
Following the collapse of the Siyad Barre regime in 1991, the private sector stepped in to provide most basic goods and services, and has actually performed relatively well throughout this period despite rampant insecurity and lack of infrastructure.
“Everything is being provided by the private sector – water, electricity, telecommunications, everything,” said Hanvard Africa’s Noor. “In the absence of a government, in the absence of a regulatory framework, with nobody else coming to provide those services, they had to do what they could do.”
“Businesses have created their own informal, enabling environment,” said Haslam. “People form strong networks to overcome [poor] access to finance, for example, relying on customary or Sharia law to overcome disputes, and local knowledge is paramount.”
But while a system of customary law and close clan ties worked to support society (through mechanisms such as Zakat – giving a proportion of one’s wealth to charity), some of these networks are now being eroded, argues Alinovi. “Because of a set of changing mechanisms in the inter-clan relations in the last 20 years, a lot of the obligation that the businessmen used to have to the society, for the social fabric surrounding [them], has begun disappearing,” he said. “The businesses in Somalia are becoming less relevant for the society.”
With international investment, there are fears that the influx of foreign money will give rise to greater cronyism and corruption. “Risk is for the investor, but also risk is for the local people,” said Noor. “We don’t want to become like Niger Delta.”  IRIN

Somalia – the challenge of decentralization

African Arguments
Decentralization in Somalia: a delicate balancing act – By Dr. Afyare Elmi

Posted on February 14, 2014 by AfricanArgumentsEditor

The issue of decentralization has been hotly debated in Somalia for the past decade. Following the collapse of the military dictatorship in 1991, few Somalis openly advocate for the return to a centralized authoritarian state that monopolizes power in Mogadishu. For many Somalis, some form of decentralization is necessary. However, the most suitable model of decentralization for the country remains a matter of contention.

The Provisional Constitution of Somalia is clear on the issue, prescribing federalism as the most appropriate system of governance. It stipulates, “Somalia is a federal, sovereign, and democratic republic founded on inclusive representation of the people and a multiparty system and social justice”. Federal member states, according to the Provisional Constitution, must be formed of two or more of the 18 administrative regions “as they existed before 1991”. With slow progress on the implementation of federalism, however, the debate continues.

Somalia’s political class appears to lack consensus and a comprehensive understanding of the concepts of ‘federalism’ and ‘decentralization’. Federalism is commonly understood to represent the only alternative to unitarism. Interestingly, many Somalis, following past experience, broadly associate the unitary state system with authoritarianism. There is little acknowledgement of alternative models of decentralization, including those within a unitary framework.

The most important driver of decentralization is a prevailing lack of trust in and among the Somali political elite. In the first decade of the independent Somali state, politics was centered in Mogadishu. Although the country was democratic, many communities outside of Mogadishu were marginalized. In 1969, the military seized power. In response to growing repression, opposition groups were formed in order to depose President Mohamed Siyad Barre.

Also, decentralization is widely considered to offer Somalis greater participation and representation in government. Previous governments appointed governors to each region, and mayors and police commissioners to each city. There is strong demand for democratic participation – people want to elect their local, regional, and national leaders. Greater local democratic participation will act, it is commonly held, as a safeguard against under-representation in national politics. Aspiring politicians have proven apt at exploiting the common desire for greater local participation and representation by conceptualizing clan-based fiefdoms before declaring themselves president. Third, historically Somalis have been forced to travel to Mogadishu to acquire a passport or other vital services. The desire for greater access to government services is often cited in the argument for greater decentralization in Somalia – Somali citizens should not be required to travel long distances to gain access to basic services that could be offered locally. Attempts to limit access to basic services are commonly viewed as further evidence of central government’s desire to consolidate control over the country.

Besides domestic drivers, external stakeholders (neighbouring countries and the donor community) have had an influence on the model of governance suitable for Somalia. Neighbouring countries, particularly Ethiopia and Kenya, have not shied away from engagement in Somalia’s national and sub-national politics. Following independence in 1960, Somalia’s leadership pursued aspirations for a Greater Somalia – what Kenya and Ethiopia referred to as ‘irredentism’ – seeking to unite all ethnic Somalis under one nation state. Both countries remain nervous about the re-emergence of the desire of greater Somalia.

The donor community has also demonstrated preference to a decentralized system of governance in Somalia. Many donors have, over the past decade, openly worked with sub-national entities. The U.S. government formalized this approach in what it called the ‘Dual Track Policy’ in Somalia. Given the incapacity of Mogadishu-based governments to extend authority far beyond the capital and other major cities, the approach to working with non-central-state actors in Somalia can be explained in practical, as opposed to ideological, terms. By working with sub-national actors, donors have gained significantly greater access to parts of Somalia not under the authority of the FGS. Still, and for better or worse, by working with regional administrations by-passing the government in Mogadishu donors have arguably legitimized the authority of sub-national actors at the expense of the FGS.

There is no system of governance that can provide a panacea to the overwhelming governance challenges Somalia has faced since the collapse of the state in 1991. Lessons can be learned from other countries emerging from conflict to rebuild government but the Somali context is unique and, ultimately, sustainable solutions to its problems will also be unique. A major challenge is how to balance the contradictory trends within Somali society as both centrifugal and centripetal tendencies are strongly present in Somalia.

The complete Decentralization Options for Somalia report could be downloaded here

Dr. Afyare Elmi is a HIPS Fellow and teaches political science at the Qatar University

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http://africanarguments.org/2014/02/14/somali-decentralization-a-delicate-balancing-act-by-dr-afyare-elmi/

Corruption and abuses in Somalia allow weapons to reach Al Shabab

BBC
14 February 2014

A UN report has warned that “systematic abuses” by Somalia’s government have allowed weapons to be diverted to warlords and al-Shabab militants.

The report for the UN’s sanctions committee calls for the restoration of an arms embargo on Somalia that was relaxed last year.

It said a key adviser to Somalia’s president has been involved in planning weapons deliveries to militants.

Somalia’s mission to the UN has questioned the report’s validity.

The confidential 14-page report was compiled by the UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group, a panel of independent experts supervising compliance with the sanctions regime.

It said the group had “identified a number of issues and concerns over current management of weapons and ammunition stockpiles” by Somalia’s government.

These, it said, “point to high-level and systematic abuses in weapons and ammunition management and distribution”.

The Security Council imposed the embargo on Somalia in 1992 as the country descended into two decades of unrest.

Information gaps
It was hoped that last year’s easing of sanctions on light weapons such as assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades would enable an internationally-backed government to better arm its security forces against al-Shabab.

Al-Qaeda-aligned Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack on Thursday near the international airport in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. At least six people were killed.

The new report outlines the difficulties faced by the monitors in gaining access to weapons stockpiles in Somalia and obtaining information about its growing arsenal.

It said shipments of weapons from Uganda and Djibouti could not be accounted for.

Many weapons were being diverted away from security forces and into the hands of militias loyal to powerful clans or for sale in private arms markets in Mogadishu, it added.

Within these clans, one key adviser to the president has been involved in planning weapons deliveries to al-Shabab, the report said.

“Given the gaps in information… it is impossible to quantify what the scale of diversion of weapons stocks has been,” it said.

“However, the Monitoring Group has obtained other pieces of qualitative evidence that point towards systematic abuses by the (Somali army).”

It recommend the restoration of the full arms embargo, or at least stricter rules.

The Somali mission to the UN said the report contained “very serious allegations” which will “cause damage to the legitimacy of the government.”

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http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-26200015

Ethiopian forces become par of AU force in Somalia

BBC

Ethiopia joins Somalia’s African Union force

Ethiopian troops in Baidoa in 2012 Ethiopian troops have been in and out of Somalia for many years, protecting its border

 

More than 4,000 Ethiopian troops have been formally absorbed into the African Union force in Somalia.

They will be responsible for security in the south-western regions of Gedo, Bay and Bakool, the AU said.

Ethiopia’s contribution takes the AU force to the 22,000-strong level mandated by the UN Security Council.

Ethiopian forces have been operating in neighbouring Somalia for several years, helping the UN-backed government fight the al-Qaeda-aligned al-Shabab group.

Last year, the UN chief Ban Ki-moon asked for a “surge” of extra troops for the AU force in Somalia, known as Amisom, fearing reversals in advances made over the last few years.

Analysis

image of Mark Doyle Mark Doyle BBC international development correspondent


The Ethiopians will be based in Baidoa, about half way between Mogadishu and the Ethiopian border. It has been heavily defended since being taken over a year ago by Ugandan troops in the Amisom force. Al-Shabab has significant positions in the area and attacks Amisom garrisons almost every day.

The 4,395 Ethiopians are a mixture of fresh troops and soldiers who were already in Somalia on a mission which Addis Ababa sees as defending its borders and many Somalis see as an assault on their sovereignty.

Amisom intends to reshuffle its forces now the reinforcements have arrived. There has long been talk of a big Amisom offensive.

But co-ordination between the various Amisom national contingents is sometimes poor. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior officer in one contingent told me late last year that he “wasn’t told” when another contingent attacked an al-Shabab position near his area of operations.

Together with government forces, Amisom, has driven al-Shabab from some key cities, including the capital, Mogadishu, in August 2011.

Daily attacks

The BBC’s international development correspondent Mark Doyle says the troops from the Ethiopian army – one of most battle-hardened in Africa – will be based in Baidoa, some 300km (185 miles) north-west of Mogadishu.

There was a flag ceremony on Wednesday morning in the town to welcome them and hand over the security of the region.

“The Ethiopian deployment will permit Burundian and Ugandan forces to move into parts of Lower and Middle Shabelle,” the AFP news agency quotes an Amisom statement as saying.

Ethiopia first entered Somalia in 2006 to remove the now-defunct Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), which had ruled most of southern Somalia for six months that year.

Al-Shabab emerged as the radical youth wing of the UIC as it battled Ethiopian troops.

Our correspondent says that in the 1970s, Somalia and Ethiopia fought a bitter war over their border area and as a consequence many Somalis, who are fiercely nationalist when faced by any foreign forces, have a particular hatred of Ethiopians.

Nonetheless, Amisom will welcome the new troops on its side, he says.

Its soldiers are hit almost daily by al-Shabab roadside bombs, ambushes and rocket attacks, he adds.

The first contingent of Amisom troops arrived in Somalia in March 2007, with Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya, Sierra Leone and Uganda now providing the force’s soldiers.

Despite Amisom gains, Islamist fighters still hold sway over many small towns and much of rural Somalia where they have imposed a strict version of Islamic law.

They also control a number of small coastal ports which they use for the lucrative export of charcoal, which fetches high prices in Arab Gulf states.

Somala – Al Shabab bans mobile and fibre optic internet use

AL JAZEERA

Rebel group says anyone caught using internet outside internet cafes will be considered to be working with the “enemy”.

09 Jan 2014

Al-Shabab said internet providers have 15 days to comply with the order [EPA]
Somali rebel group al-Shabab has announced that it has banned the use of internet through mobile handsets and fibre optic cables throughout Somalia.

In an announcement broadcast on Wednesday by a radio station affiliated with the group and later in a statement released to local media, al-Shabab said telecommunication companies had 15 days to comply with the order.

“Any individual or company that is found not following the order will be considered to be working with the enemy and they will be dealt with in accordance Sharia law.” the statement said.

It was not immediately clear if internet providers in Somalia will follow the order. The two main internet providers in Somalia, Hortel Inc and Nationlink Telecom, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Al-Shabab has been losing ground to Somalia’s internationally recognised government troops and African Union peacekeepers, but the al-Qaeda-linked group still controls significant part of the country.

Mobile internet (3G) was introduced to Somalia a year ago and has proven popular. Fibre optics arrived in Mogadishu in November last year and homes are yet to be connected.

Somalia has one of the lowest internet penetration in world with just over 1 percent of Somalia’s estimated 10 million population connected.

Most of those who access the internet in Somalia do so through the many internet cafes that dot the country’s big cities and towns. The ban, al-Shabab said, will not affect the cafes.

AL JAZEERA

Somalia – 11 die in Mogadishu bombing

Reuters

Mogadishu hotel targeted by bombs, at least 11 killed

By Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar

MOGADISHU          Thu Jan 2, 2014 2:28am GMT

An ambulance arrives at the scene of an explosion outside the Jazira hotel in Mogadishu, January 1, 2014. REUTERS-Feisal Omar
Soldiers assess the scene of an explosion outside the Jazira hotel in Mogadishu, January 1, 2014. REUTERS-Feisal Omar
Fire burns at the scene of an explosion outside the Jazira hotel in Mogadishu January 1, 2014. REUTERS-Feisal Omar

An ambulance arrives at the scene of an explosion outside the Jazira hotel in Mogadishu, January 1, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Feisal Omar

(Reuters) – Three bombs exploded within an hour outside a hotel frequented by government officials in a heavily fortified district of the Somali capital on Wednesday, killing at least 11 people.

The attacks on the Jazira hotel, one of the securest places in Mogadishu, underscore the security challenges facing President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, whose election by lawmakers last year was hailed by many as a way to end two decades of conflict.

The first two bombs came in quick succession and were followed by heavy bursts of gunfire by Somali security forces. The third blast took place about an hour later when a bomb went off inside a car that was being searched by the military.

At least one of the first two bombs appeared to be a suicide bomber, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but the Islamist rebel group al Shabaab has carried out a campaign of attacks over the past two and a half years in Mogadishu.

“First we heard a big crash and the security forces immediately opened fire,” said Abdullahi Hussein who lives 300 metres behind the hotel. “After a few minutes another explosion took place and there was more gunfire.”

Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of a private ambulance service, told Reuters at least 11 people had been killed and 17 others were wounded.

The attack will be an embarrassment to the government whose survival depends heavily on a near 18,000-strong African peacekeeping force. Donors pump in hundreds of millions of dollars into the Horn of Africa country every year to provide basic services.

“This year, 2014 is going to be the strengthening of Somali forces and the elimination of the extremists,” the newly appointed Prime Minister Abdiweli Sheikh Ahmed said in a statement on Wednesday.

The African forces helped drive al Shabaab out of the capital in August 2011, as well as other major urban centres, but the militants still hold sway over swathes of rural areas.

Islamist suicide bombers attacked the Jazira hotel in September last year as Mohamud was giving a news conference just two days into the job. He and the visiting Kenyan foreign minister were unhurt in that assault.

An attack on Kenyan shopping mall in September that killed dozens of people highlighted the militants’ ability to strike beyond Somalia’s borders. reuters

Somalia – two car bombs in Mogadishu

BBC
Hotel in Somali capital Mogadishu hit by car bombs

Two car bombs have exploded outside a hotel in the Somali capital Mogadishu, with reports of casualties.

The explosions occurred at the Jazeera hotel is near Mogadishu’s airport and is popular with Somali politicians.

Reports say the initial blast was followed by gunfire.

The Somali Islamist militant group Al Shabab was driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 but has continued to launch attacks on the capital.
BBC http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25568960