3 September 2013

Somalia: Somali Govt Denies Al-Shabaab Claim of Ambush On Presidential Convoy

Photo: Hassan Mahamud Ahmed/IRIN
Members of the militant Al-shabab in southern Somalia

The Somali government has denied al-Shabaab reports that militants ambushed a convoy carrying Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud to Marka, capital of the Lower Shabelle region.

"The news by al-Shabaab is completely false, not even one bullet was fired at us and we reached our destination [Marka] in peace," Somali government spokesperson Abdirahman Omar Osman Yarisow told Sabahi.

Pro-al-Shabaab Somalimemo website initially reported that two of the vehicles escorting the president were burned near the small settlement of Buffow, located on the eastern outskirts of Marka.

The president was travelling in an armoured convoy from the African Union Mission in Somalia.

"We ambushed a convoy that was escorting the self-appointed Somali president," al-Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP.

A Somali military official and Buffow residents reportedly confirmed the attack, but the reports could not be independently verified.

"Gunmen tried to disrupt the president's trip ... but I can confirm the president and his delegation are well and reached their final destination Marka to have meetings with local community," Somali army official Mohamed Qorey told AFP by telephone from Marka.

Residents in Marka said Mohamud appeared at the port, greeting officials and residents as he toured the town.

The trip, which marks the first time the Somali president has used ground transportation to visit any region outside the capital city, was undertaken with the intention to consult the public on work the government plans to do in the next three years, Yarisow said.

"We are consulting the different sectors of the public on various issues including the [upcoming New Deal conference in Brussels] which is expected to be held this September," Yarisow said.

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