Blast Kills Security Official in Somali Capital

11 March 2009

The wreckage of a car destroyed 11 Mar 2009 by a roadside bomb in Mogadishu, killing a senior official and three government soldiers
Wreckage of car destroyed 11 Mar 2009 by roadside bomb in Mogadishu, killing a senior official and three government soldiers
A roadside explosion has killed a senior security official in Mogadishu, along with at least two other people, as Somalia's parliament prepared to take up a government proposal to introduce Islamic law in the country - an effort opposed by Islamist insurgents.

The senior official killed in the blast in northen Mogadishu had served as the security chief for former prime minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi.   

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Islamist insurgents have been targeting government soldiers and African Union peacekeepers in the capital.

Somalia President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, a moderate Islamist and former insurgent leader, has been trying to get harder-line insurgent groups to support his government, with mediation from Islamic leaders.  

As part of that effort, the president has said he will move to implement Islamic law in the country. Information minister Farhan Ali Mohamed said Tuesday the cabinet has agreed.

He said such a move would help stop attacks by Islamist insurgents and that Somalia's parliament would take up the proposal.

It will be the first time that Somalia's parliament will meet in Mogadishu since the government was formed in 2004.  

The parliament had been meeting in Baidoa, in central Somalia, but the town is now controlled by the Shabab group. More recently the parliament has been based in neighboring Djibouti.

The most radical Islamist faction, and the most powerful, al-Shabab, has rejected the government. A spokesman, Hassan Yaqub, said the group had been fighting to implement sharia for the past two years.

But he dismissed the current effort as a plot by the government, whose members he described as infidels, to install an unacceptable form of sharia. He urged Islamist fighters to reject the measure.

The Shabab controls much of south and central Somalia, as well as pockets of Mogadishu, and has implemented a strict form of sharia in many of the areas.  

There are signs that the Somali public, who tend to hold moderate Islamic views, are growing frustrated with the Shabab's radicalism.  

This week, the Shabab shut down several money-wiring companies in the port city of Kismayo. The companies, known as hawala, which transfer money to the country from the extensive Somali diaspora are a major source of income, and there are reports that the move has encountered opposition from the public.  

President Ahmed is visiting Burundi, which along with Uganda supplies the troops for the African Union peacekeeping force in Mogadishu. While he thanked Burundi for its efforts, the presence of AU troops has encountered growing resistance from Islamist insurgents and from more moderate Islamic scholars who back the government.