Five killed in suicide attack near Somali prime minister's home

Monday, June 4, 2007

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- A suicide car bomber drove through a roadblock guarding the home of the Somali prime minister Sunday and rammed the vehicle into a wall. Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi was whisked to safety, officials said, but at least five people were killed in the explosion.

A top government official blamed the assassination attempt -- the third against Gedi since he returned to Somalia in May 2005 -- on "terrorists linked to al-Qaida."

"They planned to kill the prime minister," Salad Ali Jelle said.

"He is alive. And now he is in safe place."

The suicide bombing took place two days after Somali forces and shelling from a U.S. warship reportedly killed eight foreign Islamic militants in a remote, mountainous northeastern area of the country.

Qasaye Mohamed Ali, who lives in the neighborhood, said he was standing near the prime minister's house when he saw the car force its way through a roadblock, guards outside the premier's house open fire and then the car ram into a wall and explode.

Ali, who was waiting for a friend inside the premier's house, hid behind a wall to protect himself.

Paddy Ankunda, spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu, said a number of people were killed and others wounded. An Associated Press reporter saw five bodies in the street.

Ankunda said peacekeepers sealed off the area around Gedi's house and took charge of security.

"I can confirm that the prime minister is safe and unharmed, and our troops evacuated him from the explosion site to a safe location," Ankunda said.

The last attempt on Gedi's life was May 17, when a bomb exploded as his convoy was on its way to the capital's airport. No one was injured and no vehicles were damaged in that attempt.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

Sunday's attack undermines the government's claims to have defeated Islamic insurgents who have vowed to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war unless Somalia becomes an Islamic state.

The battles pitted the government and Ethiopian troops propping it up against clan rivals and Islamic insurgents.

Officials of the semiautonomous region of Puntland said that the dead foreign fighters in Friday's fighting included some from the United States, Britain, Sweden, Pakistan and Yemen. Somali fighters were also killed in the mountainous northeastern area of Bargal, but officials did not specify how many.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, traveling in Asia, declined to comment Sunday on the reported U.S. naval bombardment in the remote and mountainous area, saying "that's possibly an ongoing operation."

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