Suicide attack on Somali military camp kills 7: officials
A suicide car bomber killed seven people in an attack on a Somali military camp on Sunday, as more residents fled embattled Mogadishu where foreign fighters have reportedly joined the insurgency.
The attack is the first suicide bombing on a government military establishment since the Western-backed transitional administration of President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed came into office in January, correspondents in the capital said.
The attacker driving a Toyota Landcruiser tried to force his way into the camp but set off the explosives in front of the gate, killing at least six soldiers and a civilian.
Five other people were wounded. "There was a suicide car bomb in our camp today and we lost six soldiers in the attack. One civilian also died," said Lieutenant-Colonel Abdulahi Ousman Agey, the commander of Hamadhwr camp near the Somali seaport.
"The bomber tried to enter inside the camp but he was stopped by the guards and exploded his car," he told reporters.
Earlier a deputy mayor of Mogadishu, Abdi Fatah Shaweyc, suggested the bomber was a white foreigner.
But the base commander said the attacker was later identified as Somali. "After we have seen and investigated his body, we have confirmed that the suicide bomber was Somali," Agey said.
Hardline Islamists bent on toppling Sharif's government have since May 7 waged fresh battles across the Horn of Africa nation and have taken control of large swathes of Mogadishu.
On Friday, embattled government forces encountered fierce resistance as they tried unsuccessfully to drive the insurgents from the capital.
Sharif is holed up in his compound with a handful of supporters and under African Union peacekeepers' protection while 17 days of fighting have now killed more than 150 people and driven tens of thousands of war-weary Somalis out of Mogadishu.
The fierce battles in Mogadishu have sharply swollen the numbers of displaced to 57,000 from 49,000 with 8,000 fleeing
their homes on Friday alone.
A few dozen more people escaped the city again on Sunday in a handful of trucks, an AFP correspondent said.
Claiming they get foreign fighters' support, hardline Islamists rebels want to remove the moderate Islamist government and impose a stricter version of Sharia law in Somalia.
The latest bomb attack came a day after a US counter-terrorism official said US nationals had likely joined the ranks of insurgents in Somalia.
Saturday's edition of the The Times in London reported that security officials had seen more than 290 fighters from Britain, the United States, Canada, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia enter Mogadishu in recent weeks.
Observers have warned that since Ethiopia's military withdrawal in January, Somalia risked becoming a haven for jihadists affiliated to Al-Qaeda.
Eritrea has been singled out as one African country backing the Somali radicals. The African Union wants UN sanctions on Eritrea, as well as an aerial exclusion zone in Somalia and the blockade of ports and airports to prevent the entry of foreign fighters and weapons shipments.
The Somali capital has been ravaged by 18 years of almost uninterrupted civil conflict.