Middle East

Official: Somali interior minister killed in explosion

MOGADISHU: An explosion Friday in the home of Somalia’s interior minister killed him and a woman suspected of being a bomber as violent demonstrations swept the capital.

Security guards and soldiers opened fire on stone-throwing protesters angry at an agreement calling for the ouster of the country’s popular prime minister, killing two people, an official and witnesses said.

Interior Minister Abdishakur Sheikh Hassan, who also was minister for national security, died after shrapnel hit his legs and other part of his body, said Ministry of Information spokesman Abdifatah Abdinur. He was earlier taken to a hospital in critical condition. Abdinur said a dead body of a female suspected to be the bomber was found in the home.

Mohamud Abdullahi Weheliye, a member of parliament and a relative of Hassan’s, said the minister’s niece carried out the attack and that she was “sent” by Al-Shabaab,” an Islamist militia with ties to Al-Qaeda. The group has carried out suicide bombings in the past, including ones that targeted government officials. There was no immediate official confirmation of Weheliye’s account.

Abdinur said officials were investigating to confirm it was a suicide attack in the two-story, gated building that is normally well protected. The explosion reportedly went off in the sitting room.

“The walls of the sitting room cracked and blood and debris were scattered all over,” said Mohammad Mohamud, a witness who visited the site after the explosion.

For a country that has been swept by war and anarchy for two decades, Friday was a particularly bloody day and came barely two days after President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmad and the speaker of parliament signed an internationally mediated agreement extending the government’s term by a year. It postponed an August presidential election until 2012 to give leaders more time to deal with security and political issues.

In the wake of that agreement, things took a turn for the worse in this Horn of Africa nation.

Protesters blocked the roads with rocks and burned tires, while chanting “Stay Put Farmajo.” Farmajo is Prime Minister Mohammad Abdullahi Mohammad’s nickname. They also burned pictures of the U.N. envoy to Somalia whom they accused of pushing forward the agreement.

Security guards opened fire on protesters, killing a teenage boy, after demonstrators threw stones at a hotel where lawmakers were staying, a military official said. A witness said soldiers shot a fellow soldier who joined the demonstration.

Demonstrators said they will continue protests until they are assured that Mohammad will not have to leave office despite the U.N.-backed accord signed in Uganda that is supposed to pave the way for a new government.

Protesters say the president sacrificed the high-performing prime minister to stay in power.

“Prime Minister Farmajo is the only leader who cares about Somalia,” said protester Faysal Abdullahi.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 11, 2011, on page 9.

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