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Bomb kills 20 Somalis, imperils peace deal

An explosion killed at least 20 people in the Somali capital Sunday, according to witnesses and a hospital official, just as the government struggles with a political crisis.
/ Source: The Associated Press

An explosion killed at least 20 people in the Somali capital Sunday, according to witnesses and a hospital official, just as the government struggles with a political crisis that threatens its peace deal with elements of an Islamic insurgency.

The bomb, hidden under a pile of garbage, exploded on a main road. Ten of those killed were women street cleaners.

"It was an ugly scene with blood everywhere," said another witness, Farah Abdi. "I could not count the dead, I just glanced once and I ran away for my life."

Several witnesses said the scene was littered with blood and body parts, and described hearing the screams of the wounded as bystanders tried to help. Salah Adde said he counted 15 bodies, including 10 women street cleaners.

"I saw an old women who lost two legs and a hand, she was bleeding and later died before our eyes but we could do nothing as we ourselves needed help," Asha Ahmed, a 45-year-old woman who was wounded in the leg by shrapnel, told AP by phone from Medina hospital.

Hospital head Dahir Dhere said the hospital admitted 47 wounded people, mostly women and children, but five of them died. Many were in critical condition, he said.

"We do not have enough doctors and enough operational theaters, it takes some time before all patients get access to emergency treatment," he said. "They are lying in the corridors, and some bled to death."

Hawa Aden, one of the women who survived, said the device was hidden close to an Ethiopian base on a main road often used by officials, and may have detonated when one of the street cleaners tried to shovel up the trash covering it.

Power clashes
The explosion followed a peace agreement last month that has fueled power struggles within both the transitional government and the Islamic insurgency it is fighting.

In separate overnight attacks, Islamic insurgents targeted military bases of Somali government troops and their Ethiopian allies in north Mogadishu's Towfiq neighborhood, according to a witness.

Resident Mohamed Deq said he saw the bodies of three government soldiers lying in the street. Authorities did not return calls seeking comment Sunday, and the attacks could not be confirmed.

The bombing ends a period of relative calm that followed the signing of the peace deal. The deal had already been jeopardy: The moderate cleric who signed it on behalf of the Islamic opposition movement has since been replaced by hard-liner Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys, who has rejected the deal.

And on Saturday, 10 of the U.N.-backed government's 15 ministers broke with the prime minister and announced they would resign.

Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein said Saturday that the resignations were designed "to derail the ongoing reconciliation process."

On Sunday, he nominated five new ministers to take some of the places of those who resigned.

Somalia has been at war since a group of warlords overthrew a socialist dictator in 1991 and then spent years fighting each other. In 2006, Aweys led Islamist insurgents to take the capital and much of the south, but they were driven out at the end of the year.

Following their defeat at the hands of the Ethiopians, the Islamists launched an insurgency that has killed thousands of Somalis and left hundreds of thousands homeless. The U.N. estimates half the 10-million population will be dependent on food aid by the end of the year.