(AFP) – Oct 29, 2008
MOGADISHU (AFP) — Five suicide car bombs ripped through key targets Wednesday in northern Somalia, including UN offices and a presidential palace, killing 19 people and the five bombers, officials said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks in Somaliland and Puntland, which rattled a regional heads of state summit in Nairobi aimed at speeding up peace efforts in the southern and central parts of Somalia.
The self-declared state of Somaliland was rocked as three simultaneous blasts ripped through its capital Hargeysa. The presidential palace, Ethiopia's diplomatic compound and the offices of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) were all hit.
Two separate offices of an interior ministry body tasked with combatting terrorism were also targeted in Puntland's economic capital Bosasso. Officials said only the two suicide bombers were killed.
The apparently coordinated attacks drew international condemnation and US Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Jendayi Frazer said they bore the markings of Al-Qaeda.
Police said 19 people were killed in the Hargeysa bombings, including the presidential secretary, and at least 18 wounded.
"We are still conducting (an) investigation but what is clear is that terrorist groups are behind the attacks," Somaliland police official Abdi Dahir Said told AFP.
It was not clear if Somaliland president Dahir Rayale Kahin was in his office at the time of the attack, but officials said he was safe.
"At approximately 10 o'clock this morning the UNDP compound in Hargeysa, Somaliland, was hit by an explosion, caused by a vehicle which forced entry into the compound," the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a statement.
The explosion "killed at least two Somalian employees of the UN but the toll could be more severe," UN Development Programme spokesman Adam Rogers later told AFP in Geneva.
Witnesses said the suicide bombers were driving Land Cruiser SUVs.
Security officials said six members of the Puntland Intelligence Service were wounded in the bombings in Bosasso.
"We have got the the remains of the body of one attacker and we shall reveal his identify soon. The individual is known to us," Puntland president Mohamoud Musa Hirsi Adde said.
He also claimed the attacks in Hargeysa and Bosasso were coordinated.
"The attackers were not from Puntland but the whole plan was organised from the same place and by the same people," he said. "The attacks in Hargeysa and Bosasso were coordinated and planned by the same group, they can't go unpunished."
Speaking in Nairobi after a summit of heads of state from IGAD (Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, which groups six East African nations) to discuss peace efforts in Somalia, Frazer condemned the attacks.
"Nobody has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but they have the markings of Al-Qaeda," she told reporters.
The African Union's top executive, Jean Ping, also condemned the attacks and noted they "came at a time of renewed efforts by IGAD, the AU and the United Nations to bring about lasting peace, security and reconciliation in Somalia."
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Britain also expressed outrage at the bombings.
Somaliland and Puntland had until now been largely spared the daily violence rocking southern and central Somalia.
A former British protectorate, Somaliland united with the Italian Somalia in 1960. But it unilaterally broke away and announced independence 10 months after dictator Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted, in 1991.
Neighbouring Puntland declared itself autonomous from the rest of Somalia in August 1998 under the leadership of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the current president of the Somali interim government.
Some residents in Hargeysa seemed to believe that Somali Islamists -- who advocate a greater Somalia including Puntland, Somaliland, northern Kenya and eastern Ethiopia -- were behind the attacks.
Earlier this month, the registration process for March 2009 presidential elections in Somaliland began.
"The people in Hargeysa are in disbelief. They can't believe that their peace was disrupted because they started voter registration," Maryan Mahamed, a Hargeysa resident, told AFP.
Radical Islamists, who control most of southern and central Somalia, are fiercely opposed to Ethiopia, a staunch Somaliland ally.
"Today was the first time we have seen a terror attack, the people in Hargeysa lived peacefully for so many years," said Hashi Abdi Hassan, another witness.
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