Somalia suicide bomber attacks govt office
Mogadishu - An al-Shabaab fighter rammed a minibus loaded with explosives into a government building in central Somalia used by troops and politicians on Tuesday, a military official and an al Shabaab spokesperson said.
The attack occurred in Baladweyne, a town near the Ethiopian border which was captured by Ethiopian troops about three weeks ago. Both Ethiopia and Kenya have sent troops into Somalia to fight al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab following a wave of cross-border attacks and kidnappings that Nairobi blamed on the rebels.
The militia, which left most of its bases in the capital Mogadishu last August, has launched guerrilla-style attacks despite losing ground in some key southern strongholds since the incursion by Ethiopian and Kenyan troops.
"A minibus carrying explosives entered Baladweyne administration headquarters compound. Government soldiers tried to stop it by firing but all in vain," Hussein Aden, a senior military official, told Reuters by phone.
Aden said there was no immediate report of casualties and the area surrounding the compound had been sealed off.
Aden Abdulle, head of a pro-government militia group fighting alongside Somali and Ethiopian soldiers against al Shabaab, told Reuters the building attacked by the rebels housed Transitional Federal Government lawmakers and Ethiopian and Somali government soldiers.
Abdulle said the number of casualties was unknown.
Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack and said it had inflicted many casualties.
"We carried the car bomb successfully into the Ethiopian and Somali base in Baladweyne this morning. Our brave driver is martyred. There we killed many Ethiopian and Somali troops on a parade," al-Shabaab spokesperson Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab told Reuters by phone.
Ethiopian soldiers previously went into Somalia in 2006, and left in early 2009 after pushing the Islamist organisation, Islamic Courts Union, out of the capital Mogadishu.
Al-Shabaab, which wants to impose a harsh interpretation of sharia, Islamic law, on the Horn of Africa nation, has waged a bloody five-year campaign to drive the largely impotent government from power.
The Western-backed government is supported by an African Union military force.