Hardline Islamist insurgents have plans to attack the Somali capital’s seaport with vessels packed full of explosives, African Union peacekeepers and moderate Islamists said.
Al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters are waging a deadly insurgency against the fragile Western-backed government, intent on imposing a harsher version of Sharia law throughout the impoverished nation.
“We have information that al Shabaab want to use a boat laden with explosives to attack the seaport,” Major Barigye Ba-hoku, spokesman for the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM), told Reuters.
“We don’t know when they might attack, but they are planning it,” he said.
The AU also received intelligence from inside al Shabaab that trucks and animals such as donkeys and dogs could be used to target African Union (AU) troops and destabilise President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed’s administration further.
“We know they are preparing trucks in the lower Shabelle region for suicide attacks,” said Ba-hoku.
The moderate Islamist group Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca, which signed a power-sharing deal with the government last month, also said it had credible intelligence of a planned attack on Mogadishu’s port.
“We have concrete information that al Shabaab is planning to use boats to attack Mogadishu, Bossaso and Yemen ports,” said Sheikh Abdullahi Yusuf, an Ahlu Sunna spokesperson.
More than 5000 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi are deployed in Mogadishu, but their operations are largely restricted to protecting the port, airport and the presidential palace.
Clan rivalries have deprived Somalia of an effective government for nearly 20 years.
Western and neighbouring countries say the anarchic nation is a breeding ground for militant’s intent on launching attacks on east Africa and beyond.
It is also a base for pirates seizing foreign ships for ransom. The last week has seen a spike in attacks on vessels heading for and out of Mogadishu.
Pic: AU peacekeepers at the Mogadishu port