18 June 2009

Somalia: 20 Killed in Central Somalia Suicide Bombing, Including Security Minister

Beletwein — The explosion occurred midday in Beletwein, the capital of Hiran region in central Somalia, witnesses said.

Col. Omar Hashi, the Security Minister, and former Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, Mr. Abdikarim Lakanyo, were both killed in the explosion at Hotel Medina, independent sources confirmed.

Medical sources in Beletwein reported more than 50 wounded persons, with growing fears that more people might die from sustained injuries.

Al Shabaab role

The spokesman for Al Shabaab guerrillas, Sheikh Ali "Dheere" Mohamud, said the group is responsible for killing the Security Minister and "Ethiopian military officers."

" We are responsible for the explosion that killed Omar Hashi, Abdikarim Lakanyo and Ethiopian military officers whom they were meeting...it [explosion] was a response to the suffering of Somali Muslims," said the Al Shabaab spokesman.

He vowed that "more attacks" would target government officials in Beletwein.

Yusuf Daboged, the former warlord of Hiran region, confirmed the deaths and told reporters that the dead officials were leaving the hotel to attend the wedding of the late Hashi's son.

"The explosion took place moments after I parted ways with him [Omar Hashi]," said Daboged, who survived the blast.

Al Qaeda blamed

Separately, Somali President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed confirmed the attack and blamed "groups with ties to Al Qaeda" for the suicide bombing that killed Security Minister Hashi.

Recently, the late Hashi returned from Ethiopia leading an armed convoy to Beletwein, where he was reportedly organizing a new government offensive against Al Shabaab insurgents in the central regions.

Somalia's interim government, led by President Sheikh Sharif, is struggling to defeat an Islamist insurgency led by Al Shabaab hardliners who control most regions in south-central Somalia.

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