(AFP) – Apr 14, 2013
MOGADISHU — A nine-man suicide commando blasted its way into Mogadishu's main court complex Sunday, some blowing up their explosives vests while others sprayed gunfire in a rampage that left 29 civilians dead, while a separate bomb attack killed five more.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militant group claimed responsibility for the courthouse attack, from which Somalia's chief justice escaped unharmed.
It was the worst day of violence the capital has seen in months.
"The African Union force, the Somalia national army and local police have cleared the building. The latest figures indicate that there are 29 killed civilians, nine dead Shebab militants and 58 people injured," a security officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Interior Minister Abdikarin Hussein Guled said all the attackers were killed in the courthouse raid. "Six detonated themselves, and three were shot dead by security forces," he told reporters, adding that the government had regained control of the situation.
The UN special representative to Somalia, Augustine Mahiga, said he was "shocked and outraged" by the deadly attacks.
"I join the government and the people of Somalia in condemning these senseless acts of terror," Mahiga said.
He added that Somalia's progress towards stabilisation "will not be overshadowed by the desperate acts of these cowardly terrorists."
Shebab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage claimed only five suicide attackers died in the fighting at the court complex, and vowed there would be fresh attacks.
"This was a holy action which targeted non-believers who were in a meeting within the court complex. We will continue until Somalia is liberated from invaders," he told AFP.
As the drama inside the court complex was unfolding, five people were killed when a remote-detonated car bomb near the airport struck a convoy carrying Turkish aid.
"Five people, two of them women who were passing by the area were killed in the car bomb attack," Hassan Moalim, who witnessed the attack, told AFP.
An official from the Turkish Red Crescent told Turkish news television channel NTV that its Somali driver was killed and some of its workers were lightly hurt.
A separate car bomb exploded outside the court complex during the assault there, spreading panic.
After Somali forces eventually ended the courthouse raid chaos still engulfed the area, and an AFP reporter saw medics evacuating wounded through the courthouse's shattered windows.
The Islamist Shebab militants used to control most of the seaside capital until it abandoned fixed positions in August 2011. But it has since carried out a string of attacks against the UN-backed government.
A regional military offensive has forced many Shebab fighters to retreat to the mountains in northern Somalia but the insurgents have reverted to guerrilla tactics and carried out several bomb attacks in Mogadishu.
The courthouse is in the heavily-guarded administrative quarter of the capital and several senior officials were caught in the chaos.
"The chief justice and other senior judiciary officials are all safe and sound, they were rescued unharmed. But unfortunately a number of civilians and security personnel were killed in the attack," police commander Mohamed Yusuf said.
Among the dead from the courthouse attack were two prominent lawyers, Mohamed Mohamud Afrah and Abdikarin Hassan, who recently defended a journalist who stood trial after interviewing a rape victim.
"This attack is nothing but a sign of desperation by the terrorists, who've lost all their strongholds and are in complete decline right across Somalia," Somalia's President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in a statement.
Britain condemned the attacks and said Shebab's acts served to "prolong the suffering of the Somali people" and called on them to face justice.
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