9 April 2008

Somalia: Explosion Rocks Somaliland Parliament Building

Garowe — A bomb exploded through a part of the parliament building in Somalia's separatist republic of Somaliland on a day of intense political negotiations to settle an enduring dispute about the upcoming elections.

No one was wounded when the explosion happened at noon on Wednesday in Hargeisa, the breakaway region's capital city. But there was extensive damage to an office inside the parliament building, which is home to the House of Guurti (elders).

Gen. Mohamed Dubad, Somaliland 's chief of police, told local media that six suspects have been apprehended in connection with today's explosion.

Of the six suspects, four are reported to be employees who work at the parliament building, according to local sources.

Somaliland Interior Minister Abdullahi "Irro" Ismail later told the BBC Somali Service that members loyal to the opposition Kulmiye party were behind the attack.

He said two Kulmiye party members are in police custody for questioning.

But Kulmiye party chairman Ahmed Silanyo dismissed the Interior Minister's allegations as "baseless."

Prior to the explosion, the House of Guurti ended a heated discussion on a bill introduced by the government of President Dahir Riyale, sources said.

According to the sources in Hargeisa, Riyale's bill is a request for a term extension for the incumbent president whose official term expires next month.

The Somaliland leader wants the presidential elections postponed until October 2008, to complete an ongoing voter registration process.

But Mr. Silanyo, the opposition leader, has been critical of the term extension proposal.

On Wednesday, the House of Guurti failed to hold an official session because there were not enough lawmakers to complete the quorum.

The explosion at the parliament building becomes the third bomb blast in Hargeisa over the past two weeks, including a grenade attack on the home of a Somaliland Cabinet minister last week.

Somaliland , which declared independence from Somalia in 1991, maintains its own government, armed forces, flag and currency.

But no country in the world has ever recognized the separatist region as an independent republic.

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