Somali minister wounded in roadside blast

A roadside bomb wounded Somalia’s new interior minister and killed a security guard on Thursday in the latest violence in Mogadishu, witnesses said.
The blast struck a car transporting Abdukadir Ali Omar near the Somali capital’s Bakara market area, Reuters adds.
“We heard a big explosion, which seemed to be a landmine targeting the car,” witness Abdirahman Ali told Reuters. “I was standing opposite. Bodyguards opened fire. The minister was injured. One of his security men died and another was injured.”
There was no immediate claim of responsibility though Islamist militants are fighting the Somali government and frequently carry out such attacks.
Omar, who is part of a new government seeking to end 18 years of conflict in the Horn of Africa nation, was treated for shoulder injuries at a Mogadishu hospital then discharged.
“I am quite good now. I am sitting,” he told Reuters.
“Somali people don’t need more conflict. They only need peace now. I am not pointing the finger at any group, but we know very well among ourselves.”
Meanwhile, fighters from Somalia’s hardline Islamist group al Shabaab fired in the air yesterday to disperse hundreds of people demonstrating in a central town against a ban on the popular narcotic khat.
Separately, the group said it had captured five Kenyans crossing the border illegally and was interrogating them.
In the town of Baidoa, witnesses said nearly 1000 enraged locals took to the streets and threw stones at the militants in their rage against a ban on khat — a mild stimulant whose leaves are chewed by most Somali men.
“We don’t want the khat to be stopped, we don’t want an al Shabaab administration,” demonstrator Ali Mohamed told Reuters
Al Shabaab, a pro-al Qaeda group which is battling the Somali government and African Union peacekeepers, overran Baidoa — the former seat of parliament — earlier this year to tighten its grip on large swathes of the south.
Fighters shot in the air to end the protest and detained about 50 people, locals said. They also demolished khat kiosks.
Somalis, who are traditionally moderate Muslims, say al Shabaab leaders normally bring security to areas under their control, but also impose hardline practices that many resent.
Hassan Derow, the local al Shabaab commander, told Reuters his gunmen were hunting other organisers of the demonstration.
“We will deal with residents with an iron fist,” he said.
To the south, five Kenyans working for the Education Ministry were seized on the border by al Shabaab, locals said.
The hostages are a district education officer from Wajir, three school inspectors from Garissa and Mandera, and a driver.