Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Canadian dies in Somalia terrorist attack

President unhurt; all assailants killed

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Somalis gather near the wreck of one of the vehicles militants used as a car bomb in an attack on the presidential palace.

FARAH ABDI WARSAMEH / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Somalis gather near the wreck of one of the vehicles militants used as a car bomb in an attack on the presidential palace.

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- A Canadian was identified as one of those killed in a terrorist attack on Somalia's presidential palace on Friday.

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird confirmed Mohamud Hersi Abdulle, a former intelligence commander and an aide to the Somali prime minister, died in the attack by nine members of the al-Qaida-linked terrorist group al-Shabab.

Early media reports had said Abdulle was American. A second government official was also killed in the attack.

Baird issued a statement saying the Canadian citizen had returned to his native Somalia to work with the prime minister.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was unharmed in the attack' in which all nine militants were killed.

The president called the assault a "media spectacular" by a "dying animal." In Friday's attack, a speeding car full of explosives rammed into a barricade erected by soldiers protecting the presidential palace, causing an explosion and sending plumes of smoke into the sky. Amid the mayhem, gunmen chanting "God is great" then moved toward a second gate and tried to force their way into the complex.

'Don't be fooled by this "media spectacular." This is another act of desperation from a dying animal'

The attack underscores a worrying new trend in Mogadishu: Despite a period of relative calm after al-Shabab's ouster from Mogadishu in August 2011, militants have carried out a series of deadly assaults in recent weeks that have seen the city hit with mortar fire and pitched battles.

Weapons meant for the Somali army could have been used by the militants in Friday's attack. A confidential UN Monitoring Group report on Somalia and Eritrea reported this month the country's military is selling weapons in markets where the al-Qaida-linked militants buy weapons.

In at least one case, a military commander sold weapons directly to an al-Shabab commander, the confidential report said.

Friday's attack against the compound where the president and prime minister live began with a car-bomb explosion, followed by an assault by gunmen on palace guards, said police Capt. Mohamed Hussein.

"President just called me to say he's unharmed. Attack on Villa Somalia had failed. Sadly some lives lost. I condemn strongly this terrorism," the UN representative to Somalia, Nick Kay, said on Twitter. He added later: "The Somali people are tired of shootings, bombings and killings. It's time for a new chapter in Somalia's history."

The Interior Ministry displayed seven bloodied corpses of the attackers and said two others blew themselves up. The wrecks of two car bombs lay nearby.

"Apart from media headlines, Shabaab will achieve nothing from it," a Twitter account run by the office of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.

Al-Shabab has been waging war in Somalia for years as it tries to oust the western-backed government. Though weakened, the militants can still launch vicious attacks.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned the attack "in the strongest terms" and the UN Security Council said it was "appalled." Both paid tribute to Somali and African Union forces for repelling the attack.

The Security Council reaffirmed "that this and other acts of terrorism would not weaken their determination to support the peace and reconciliation process in Somalia."

The secretary-general expressed concern that recent attacks by al-Shabab "are clearly aimed at destabilizing the country at a time when many efforts are being mobilized to restore peace and development," UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

Baird also condemned the attack in his statement and offered his condolences to Abdulle's family.

"His death reminds us all of the great risks and sacrifices Canadians take around the world in support of greater peace and security," Baird said.

A UN Monitoring Group report, published Feb. 6 and obtained by The Associated Press, found many weapons given to Somalia's military can no longer be accounted for, including rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades and bullets. The monitoring group "has developed serious concerns that the 1,000 AK-47s delivered from Uganda" are no longer in government control, it said.

The report said two separate clan-based power bases in the government are procuring weapons with a clan-based agenda that works against peace in Somalia, including by distributing weapons to clan militias. A sub-clan of the president's dominates weapons procurements and funnels them to Abgaal militia forces, it said.

"In addition, the monitoring group has also obtained documentary evidence corroborating information that a key adviser to the president, from his Abgaal sub-clan, has been involved in planning weapons deliveries to al-Shabab leader Sheikh Yusuf Isse 'Kabukatukade,' who is also Abgaal," the report said.

The report said ammunition supplied to Somalia's army has been leaked in large quantities to arms markets. Weapons and ammunition not sold at a market during the day are taken back for storage in garages and houses owned by Somali army officers, the report said.

"Al-Shabaab are known to frequent the market to purchase weapons and ammunition and were easily identifiable by the salesmen there," the report said. Somalia's government has not responded publicly to the report and did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

 

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 22, 2014 A24

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