28 May 2009

Somalia: Security Minister 'Attacked in Ethiopia'

Somalia's security minister was attacked as he traveled by road from Ethiopia on his way home by suspected insurgents, Radio Garowe reports Thursday.

Col. Omar Hashi, who has been in Ethiopia alongside Somali Finance Minister Sharif Hassan Sheikh Aden in recent days, landed at the airport in the Ethiopian city of Godey and reportedly traveled by road towards Hiran region, in central Somalia where he hails from, sources said.

Col. Omar Hashi, Somali Minister of Security

The number of casualties could not be confirmed independently, but the sources said the Security Minister's vehicle convoy was attacked in Mustahil district of eastern Ethiopia and that there were unconfirmed reports of death and wounded persons.

Mr. Hashi is reportedly safe, but his whereabouts remain unclear.

No group has claimed responsibility for this attack, but Islamist rebels waging war against Somalia's U.N.-backed interim government have regularly targeted government officials and their allies.

Security Minister Hashi has been an outspoken critic of Al Shabaab, accusing the rebel faction of having 'foreign fighters' among their ranks. Al Shabaab commanders have since confirmed his allegations.

Al Shabaab guerrillas have fought pitched battles in parts of Hiran region this month as they attempt to overthrow the pro-government Islamic Courts Union (ICU) militia that controls Beletwein, the provincial capital of Hiran.

Somali government officials in the capital Mogadishu have not commented on this story.

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