POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jan 29, 2013
LAST UPDATED: 3:25 a.m. HST, Jan 29, 2013
MOGADISHU, Somalia >> A suicide bomber detonated explosives outside the prime minister’s home in Somalia’s presidential palace compound, killing two people, an official said today.
The man blew himself up this morning when he was questioned by soldiers manning a checkpoint in the palace complex known as Villa Somalia, said Mohamed Ali, a police officer at the official residence in Mogadishu, the capital.
Villa Somalia has a large compound with several buildings and checkpoints. The bomber was four more checkpoints away from President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s home, Ali said. The president is said to be out of the country on state business.
The checkpoint where the blast took place is near the home of Prime Minister’s Abdi Farah Shirdon which is also in the compound, according to officials.
Shirdon was at home but was not harmed, according to an official from the palace who insisted on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak with the press.
Shirdon later released a statement read by Somalia’s information minister saying one soldier was killed in the attack and the attacker is believed to be an operative of the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab insurgent group.
“This inhumane and barbaric attack shows once again the cruel twisted ideology of killing and destruction by the al-Shabab,” Shirdon said.
However, a military officer at the palace, Yusuf Abdi, said two soldiers died and three others were wounded in the explosion, backing what Ali had said.
“He killed two people and himself on the spot, his evil attempt has failed,” Ali said.
Al -Shabab has opposed President Mohamud’s election and government, saying it had been manipulated by western powers.
The president survived an assassination attempt on his second day in office in September when two suicide bombers blew themselves up while trying to gain access into a heavily guarded hotel serving as his temporary residence.
Mohamud, 56, who was an academic and activist before becoming president, is expected to form the county’s first functioning central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.
Since 2004, Somalia has been represented by a U.N.-approved leadership structure called the Transitional Federal Government that until recently only controlled small parts of Mogadishu. That government accomplished little, but since African Union and Somali troops pushed the al-Shabab extremists out of the capital in 2011 and most parts of the country they occupied in 2012, positive momentum new stability is building.
Al-Shabab militants, though evicted from Mogadishu, still penetrate the seaside capital to carry out suicide attacks.
The international community is supporting Mohamud’s government saying it’s a step toward moving the country out of its failed-state status but that much more remains to be done in a country bloodied by two decades of war.
In a sign of progress, the United States last week officially recognized the Somali government for the first time since Barre’s fall 1991.
Mohamud faces an uphill task unifying a fractious country in the face of the Islamist radicals’ insurgency and rebuilding a bombed-out infrastructure, food security and institutions. Another challenge is fighting the endemic corruption that plagued previous governments.