Islamist insurgents fired mortar bombs at the presidential palace in the Somali capital overnight, prompting return fire by troops that killed at least six people, medical officials and residents said this morning.
Violence has killed at least 21 000 people in the failed Horn of Africa nation since the start of 2007 and driven another 1.5 million from their homes, helping trigger one of the world’s worst humanitarian emergencies.
Rebels from the hardline al Shabaab group, which Washington says is al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia, routinely fire at the hilltop Villa Somali palace from other parts of Mogadishu. Troops at the palace often launch shells back.
Residents and medical officials said several bombs struck the city’s northern Suqa Holaha, or livestock market, district. “We have collected six dead bodies and 50 wounded people from various locations around that area,” Ali Musa, coordinator of Mogadishu’s over-stretched ambulance service, told Reuters. Somalia has not had an effective central government for nearly two decades, leading to the rise of warlords, heavily armed militias and pirates terrorising shipping off its shores.
Western security agencies say the country has become a safe haven for Islamist militants, including foreign jihadists, who are using it to plot attacks across the region and beyond. At an African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital on Friday, Somalia’s Foreign Minister Ali Jama’ Jangeli called for more AU troops to help about 5000 peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi who are based in the Somali capital. His Kenyan and Sudanese counterparts backed the call. Djibouti has said it would send 450 soldiers soon.