Suicide Bombings Kill at Least 22 in Somalia
Three of the five synchronized bombings hit the breakaway republic of Somaliland, one of them detonating at the palace of the regional president. The United Nations compound in Somaliland was also hit by a suicide car bomb.
Bombers also simultaneously attacked two intelligence facilities in the northern region of Puntland, according to the Associated Press. All the attacks took place in the morning.
“There are known casualties as well as deaths, but the numbers are currently being verified,” said Dawn Elizabeth Blalock, a spokeswoman for the U.N.’s Somalia program in Nairobi, Kenya.
Officials said at least two of the 22 dead were suicide bombers, the AP reported.
Puntland and Somaliland, which has long sought international recognition to become its own nation, are considered to be relatively calm compared to southern Somalia, where the government and its Ethiopian military allies have been battling rebels waging a campaign of roadside bombs and assassinations.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attacks. But the U.N. and Ethiopia have supported Somalia’s weak central government in its battle with Islamic rebels and rebel fighters have launched similar attacks in the past to coincide with U.N.-led efforts to end the turmoil in the lawless Horn of Africa nation, which has become a hotbed for abductions and piracy.
Somalia has been without a functioning government since 1991, when clan warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then waged war on each other. The current government was formed in 2004 with U.N. assistance, but has failed to curb widespread violence or the country’s poverty.
“It is the work of the usual terrorists who try to create instability. I assure you they will not be left to get away with it. They will be brought to justice,” Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin told reporters at the meeting, according to Reuters.
Witness Ismail Mohamed, 22, told the AP people were screaming for help after the blast at the presidential palace in Somaliland.
“It was a horrendous scene,” said Mohamed.
Violence and political unrest in Somalia has killed nearly 10,000 civilians and an unknown number of combatants since the start of last year. More than a million people have been driven from their homes.
Monday’s talks did not include any hard-line opposition figures, including from the al-Shabaab group, considered to be the military wing of Somalia’s ousted Islamic movement. The group refuses to participate in talks until Ethiopia’s military presence in the country is removed, according to the BBC.
When government officials and some opposition figures signed a peace pact at U.N.-led talks in Djibouti in August, insurgents from the hard-line group al-Shabaab, or “The Youth,” seized the key southern port of Kismayu in fighting that killed at least 70 people.
The U.S. considers al-Shabaab to be a terrorist organization.