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Islamists deny Somali bomb claims
Friday, 1 December 2006, 14:48 GMT
A government official has blamed al-Qaeda
The Islamist group which controls much of southern Somalia has rejected accusations that it was behind the car bomb on the government base, Baidoa.
Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys has condemned the attack, in which at least nine people died.
Government officials have accused the UIC of organising Thursday’s blast.
There are fears of widespread conflict between the government and the UIC and their regional allies.
The government says they have arrested three more suspects following raids in houses and hotels in Baidoa, after three people were arrested on Thursday.
A government source says one of those arrested lost a leg in the explosion and another is a woman.
Police have tightened security around the town and several cars from the Islamist-held capital, Mogadishu, were not allowed to enter Baidoa.
A policeman told the BBC that a female suicide bomber wearing a veil blew herself up at a check-point on the outskirts of the only town under government control.
“There were flames everywhere,” an eye-witness said.
Ethiopian convoy ‘ambushed’
Two of those killed were police officers.
The government says it was a suicide bombing but there is no independent verification of this.
“All indications are that they were trying to bring the explosives into Baidoa and their motive could be killing government officials, but we expect to get a clearer picture from the interrogation,” Information Minister Ali Jama told the AFP news agency.
Some officials have suggested that the attackers were foreign members of the al-Qaeda network.
But Mr Aweys denied the charges.
“This is a baseless allegation. They have no evidence to say the Islamic courts are behind this,” he told the AP news agency.
Interim President Abdullahi Yusuf survived a suicide car bomb attack in Baidoa two months ago, which killed his brother.
He said they were foreign members of al-Qaeda.
The UIC denies links to al-Qaeda but is opposed to the government and has threatened to launch a holy war to drive Ethiopian troops out of the country.
Ethiopia admits it has hundreds of military trainers helping the government but denies they are taking part in any conflict.
The Ethiopian parliament on Thursday passed a resolution authorising the government to take all necessary and legal steps against any invasion by UIC.
The resolution said there was a clear and present danger to Ethiopia from the UIC.
Ethiopia’s rival Eritrea denies claims that it backs the UIC.
At least 19 people have been killed including three government ministers after an explosion ripped through the Shamo Hotel in Mogadishu, the Somali capital, during a graduation ceremony.
A suicide bomber disguised as a woman carried out Thursday’s attack at the hotel during a crowded graduation ceremony for medical students from a local university, Dahir Mohamud Gelle, the Somali information minister, said.
Witnesses said the attack appeared to have targeted government officials.
It is the deadliest attack to hit Mogadishu for several months. No-one has yet claimed responsibility.
Of the three ministers killed in the blast, one was a woman – Qamar Aden Ali, the health minister. Ibrahim Hassan Adow, the minister for higher education, and Ahmed Abdullahi Wayel, the minister for education, also died.
Also among the dead were two journalists and two professors. At least 50 students were reportedly injured.
Saleban Olad Roble, the Somali sports minister, was also injured in the explosion.
Thursday’s attack is the second time this year members of government have been killed in a suicide bombing.
In June, the national security minister died in a suicide bombing that killed at least 24 people. Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for that attack.
Al Jazeera’s Nicole Johnston’s reports.
Somali Bomb Kills Government Ministers
MOGADISHU, Somalia — A suicide bomber disguised as a woman attacked a graduation ceremony in Somalia on Thursday, turning a rare reason to celebrate into carnage that killed at least 22 people – including medical students, doctors and three government ministers.
The blast was blamed on Islamic militants who have shown a rising ability to carry out sophisticated large-scale bombings against high-profile targets – and highlighted the inability of Somalia’s weak government to protect even the small section of the capital it controls.
“Today should have been a day of celebration – not mourning,” said Somalia’s ambassador to Kenya, Mohamed Ali Nur. “The hopes of many parents who eagerly awaited their sons’ graduation were recklessly dashed … cutting short the lives of ambitious Somalis.”
Several hundred people had gathered in the Shamo Hotel to watch the 43 medical, engineering and computer science students from Benadir University receive their diplomas when the blast ripped through the festively decorated ballroom.
Amateur video of the attack obtained by AP Television News showed the dead, including at least three journalists, lying in pools of blood amid the sound of wails and screams from the wounded. Soldiers, their AK-47 rifles slung over their shoulders, picked through the wreckage with their hands as survivors climbed over the debris of the bombed-out room.
The attack targeted one of Somalia’s most important efforts to extricate itself from anarchy and violence, explaining the presence of so many top government officials. The graduating medical students were only the second class to receive diplomas from the medical school.
“The loss of our ministers is disastrous, but it is an outrage to target the graduation of medical students and kill those whose only aim in life was to help those most in need in our stricken country,” Somali Prime Minister Omar Sharmarke said.
Before last year’s graduation, almost two decades had passed since anyone earned a medical degree in Somalia. At the December 2008 ceremony, graduates proudly hoisted their diplomas into the air.
——–(CNN) — A male suicide bomber dressed in women’s clothing killed three members of Somalia’s U.N.-backed interim government and 16 others Thursday when he detonated at a medical school graduation ceremony in Mogadishu, government officials and witnesses said.
The Transitional Federal Government said Education Minister Abdullahi Wayel, Health Minister Qamar Aden and Higher Education Minister Ibrahim Hassan Adow were among the dead after the bomber attacked Banadir University’s medical school commencement. The African Union, which leads a peacekeeping mission in Somalia, put the death toll at 19.
The victims also included nine students and two doctors, according to a professor at Banadir University, while journalists said two of their colleagues died in the blast. In addition, Sports Minister Suleman Olad Roble was hospitalized in critical condition, his relatives told local media.
Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed blamed the Islamist rebel group Al-Shabaab for the attack and displayed what he said was the body of the bomber for reporters, a local journalist who attended the news conference told CNN.
The body the president displayed had a beard. The president also showed the remains of the suicide belt and shreds of a hijab — a garment worn by some Muslim women to reflect modesty — at the news conference, according to the journalist, whom CNN is not naming for security reasons.
At the United Nations, the Security Council condemned the bombing as an act of terrorism against “people dedicated to building a peaceful, stable and prosperous future for the people of Somalia.” It urged a “thorough investigation” and expressed hope that those responsible would “be brought swiftly to justice.”
“The Security Council expresses its deepest sympathies and condolences to the families of those killed and to those injured in the attack, as well as to the Transitional Federal Government and the people of Somalia,” the council’s current president, Burkina Faso’s U.N. Ambassador Michel Kafando, said Thursday.
Video of the graduation ceremony showed Dr. Osman Dufle, the country’s former health minister, speaking as the camera begins to shake — apparently from the explosion. Afterward, Dufle told journalists that he saw a person dressed in black moving through the audience just before the blast, according to the Radio Mogadishu journalist.
Al-Shabaab is made up of former allies of Ahmed, once a leader of the Islamist movement that briefly held power in Mogadishu in 2006. Adow, a Somali-American, served as the foreign secretary of the Islamic Courts Union when it held Mogadishu.
But while Ahmed and other former members of the ICU accepted a U.N.-brokered peace agreement with the government they once fought, Al-Shabaab — which the United States says has links to al Qaeda — has rejected the peace agreement and has waged a bloody campaign against the transitional government.
The African Union’s peacekeeping mission AMISOM condemned Thursday’s attack. It vowed to “spare no efforts to ensure that the perpetrators of this act and such heinous crimes against humanity being carried out in Somalia” will be brought to justice.
The journalists killed were Mohamed Amiin Abdullah of Shabelle Media Network and freelance cameraman Hassan Ahmed Hagi, who worked closely with the network.
CNN regularly works with Shabelle Media.
The African Union condemned the attack, saying it would “spare no efforts to ensure that perpetrators of this act and such heinous crimes against humanity being carried out in Somalia” will be brought to justice.
The National Union of Somali Journalists also condemned the attack and said it brought the number of journalists killed in the country this year to eight.