A high-level international delegation holding talks with the leaders of the Transitional Federal Government came under fierce attack when several suicide bombers in vehicles attacked the main airport in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Officials say the dead include two Ugandan peacekeepers, three civilians and several attackers. An eyewitness who declined to be identified said several loud explosions shocked residents living near Mogadishu’s Aden Adde International Airport.
Ugandan troops serving with the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia provide heavy security in the area. Smoke was seen billowing from a car in front of the main gate at the airport after a loud explosion and then gunfire and more explosions. Two vehicles, the second carrying several passengers, approached the main gate of the airport after noon. Both cars had reportedly made their way through several government police checkpoints before reaching the gate. The first car exploded when peacekeepers manning the checkpoint tried to stop it from entering the gate. Then, possibly as many as five gunmen, dressed in government military uniforms and some wearing suicide vests, jumped out of the second car and began firing at the peacekeepers.
Two of the gunmen broke through the gate and came within 200 meters of the terminal building before being stopped. African Union peacekeepers say the gunmen, then, detonated their vests. The second car was also packed with explosives, but it did not explode. The gun battle and explosions caused panic inside the airport, where a high-level meeting was taking place between Somali Transitional Federal Government President Sharif Sheik Ahmed and an international delegation led by the U.N. Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga. According to the UN, the delegation has been flown safely back to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
What is not clear is whether the delegation was the target of the suicide attack. The transitional government had earlier warned that Somalia’s al-Qaida-linked militant group, al-Shabab, was likely to stage a spectacular attack to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Terror group Al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for a similar suicide attack last month at the Muna Hotel in Mogadishu, which killed more than 30 people including several parliament members. In that attack, two suicide bombers also wore government military uniforms to pass through security. Al-Shabaab is made up of a ruthless combination of street gangs whose ideology of Islam is enshrined on Sharia law that has not ben embraced by the locals and has been out-rightly rejected by those in the region who sees it as non-Islamic.
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