Somalia PM urges aid workers to stay

2011-10-05 15:23
Addis Ababa - Somali Prime Minister Abweli Mohamed Ali urged aid workers on Wednesday not to stay away from the famine-ravaged Horn of Africa nation after al-Qaeda-linked militants killed 70 people in a Mogadishu suicide bomb attack and vowed to boost security.

A truck bomb struck at the heart of the Somali capital on Tuesday and the Islamist militants al Shabaab group warned of more "serious blasts" at a time when aid groups are struggling to reach some 4 million people, most of whom live in the rebel-controlled southern and central parts of Somalia.

President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed said the rebels could not have "attacked the Somali people at a worst time", as Somalia struggles with the worst drought to hit it in decades.

"[The] donor community should not reduce their support to the Somali people," Ali told journalists in the Ethiopian capital when asked if he feared the attack might force aid workers to stay away from providing humanitarian support.

"We will make sure that our security and national police force will work harder. The TFG [Transitional Federal Government] is committed to eliminating this threat."

Al-Shabaab insurgents pulled most of their fighters out of Mogadishu in August allowing government troops and African Union soldiers to seize much of the capital. But the rebels vowed to still carry out attacks on government installations.

Analysts, however, warned the conflict was far from won and a shift in the insurgents' tactics could herald a wave of al-Qaeda-style attacks, posing a threat to Somalia and other countries in the region. Al Shabaab killed 79 people watching the soccer World Cup final in Uganda last year.

Ali said the group's tactics would increasingly alienate them from the public.

"Al-Shabaab have lost the hearts and minds of the Somali people. And now, we knew that they would resort to these kinds of attacks: suicide bombings and IEDs," he said.

"We should be prepared, and make sure these sorts of attacks won't happen again," Ali added, appealing to the international community for more help to tackle al-Shabaab.

The militants have used suicide bombers to devastating effect in past attacks on African Union compounds, government buildings and a medical graduation ceremony.

The group is fighting to oust the UN-backed transition government that it sees as a puppet of the West and wants to impose its own harsh version of sharia law throughout the Horn of Africa nation.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  al-qaeda  |  somalia  |  east africa
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