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Somalia prime minister escapes attack

Gunmen threw grenades and a land mine exploded near a convoy carrying Somalia’s prime minister on Sunday, but he escaped unharmed, officials said.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Gunmen threw grenades and a land mine exploded near a convoy carrying Somalia’s prime minister on Sunday, but the leader escaped unharmed, officials said. At least five bodyguards were killed and 14 other people wounded in the attack.

The attack occurred shortly after Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi arrived for a visit to the Somali capital — a stronghold of powerful warlords-turned-Cabinet ministers and Islamic extremists opposed to his divided transitional government, according to the Horn Africa radio station.

The explosions narrowly missed the vehicle carrying Gedi and Deputy Prime Minister Hussein Aidid. The victims were bodyguards in the car behind the leaders, said Mohamed Ali Americo, a senior official in the Somali prime minister’s office.

One bodyguard died at the scene. Two others inside Gedi’s vehicle were also wounded in the attack, said businessman Mahamud Ahmed Ali.

“I heard a grenade explosion. It was followed by a land mine explosion,” Ali said, describing the attack. “I saw the prime minister’s bodyguards opening fire on a dusty road on which the attackers were probably fleeing.”

Doctors at the Medina and Al Hayat hospitals confirmed that five dead bodies were taken to the medical facilities following the attack. At least 14 people were taken there for treatment, including seven who were in critical condition, they said.

Meeting with rival lawmakers
Despite the attack, Gedi went ahead with a planned meeting with rival lawmakers and Cabinet ministers based in Mogadishu and planned to spend the night in the city, Americo told The Associated Press shortly after arriving in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, from Mogadishu.

The attack on Gedi and his entourage of 10 Cabinet ministers occurred near the Hotel Ramadhan, Americo said.

It came a day after pirates armed with grenade launchers and machine guns tried to hijack a luxury cruise liner off the east African nation’s coast, but the ship outran them, officials said.

On May 3, an explosion went off just 10 yards from Gedi during his first visit to Mogadishu since he took office last year. He was not harmed and said the incident was an accident, but others suspected it was an attempt to kill him and guarantee his exiled government never takes power.

Gedi and President Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed have set up operations in Jowhar, 60 miles northwest of the capital, saying Mogadishu is considered unsafe. Their rivals have set up operations in Mogadishu and are pressing the rest of the government to move to the city recognized under the constitution as the capital.

Yusuf has said he will only move to Mogadishu when it is safe and the government is ready.

Battling fiefdoms
Somalia has had no effective central government since opposition leaders ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. They then turned on each other, transforming this nation of 7 million into a patchwork of battling fiefdoms ruled by heavily armed militias.

Gedi’s transitional government, formed in 2004 after lengthy peace talks in Kenya, raised some hope for the Horn of Africa country. But members of the transitional government have been fighting among themselves in recent months and have made little progress in establishing themselves, spending much of their time in neighboring Kenya.