A car has exploded inside the main market in Somalia’s capital city after a hand grenade was thrown into a vehicle which was carrying four police officials. At least one person has been killed in the attack, proving that despite recent infighting inside al-Shabaab, including the recent killing of top leaders, the extremist group is far from defeated and continues to be a severe threat to security within Mogadishu and the rest of Somalia. The attack comes just one day after Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud’s plane caught on fire, forcing the president to route back to Mogadishu.
According to police officials, the four-wheel drive vehicle caught fire after a homemade bomb was detonated at about 10:30 local time (07:30 GMT) in the capital’s main market. Sources on the ground have indicated that officers from a nearby police station rushed to the scene, shooting in the air in order to disperse the crowd. A police source in Mogadishu has confirmed that four of the police officers inside the vehicle were wounded. The market was partially closed for several hours while an investigation into the attacks is currently underway.
Al-Shabaab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab has indicated that the militant group’s fighters had set off an improvised explosive device which targeted security officials in Mogadishu’s Bakara market. The militant group has claimed to have killed three officials and wounded three others.
Business has been booming in Bakara market over the last two years. Although insecurity remains to be an issue throughout the capital city there have not been many recent attacks in Bakara market. The attack was carried out on the eve of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is one of the busiest shopping days. The Somali Federal Government has also warned the public that Islamist militants may increase their activity over the following month. In previous years, the month of Ramadan, which is expected to start this week, has witnessed a surge in al-Shabaab attacks as gunmen have been urged to carry out attacks by their extremist preachers. In a bid to topple the internationally-backed Somali government, al-Shabaab militants have launched a string of attacks, including a daylight attack last month on a fortified United Nations compound.
Meanwhile a plane carrying the Somali president was forced to make an emergency landing in Mogadishu after one of its engines reportedly caught fire. A spokesman for President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed confirmed the incident, stating that it was not immediately clear why the engine had stopped working. According to local reports, the President was not injured however fire fighters quickly arrived at the scene in order to put out the flames. The President was flying to the South Sudan capital of Juba when his flight was forced to turn round.
News of the incident was first reported on a Twitter feed that is run by al-Shabaab, however the report did not indicated that the militant group had attacked the plane.
An apparently accidental publication of a diplomatic letter has exposed a rift between the Somali Federal Government and Kenyan troops. The letter accuses the Kenyan army of causing recent faction fighting, which has left at least sixty-five dead in the southern port city of Kismayo. Kenyan troops are in Somalia as part of the African Union (AU) force who is currently battling Islamist militants in support of the United Nations-backed government. Kenyan authorities have yet to comment on the letter.
The letter, which is titled as “Extremely Urgent – Kismayo conflict,” is from the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fawzia Yusuf Adam. He is also the deputy prime minister to the African Union. The letter accuses Kenyan troops, who are part of the AU’s peacekeeping force, known as AMISOM, of not being neutral peacekeepers and that instead, they are attempting to create a buffer state, known as Jubbaland, within Somalia, which will be run by local politicians that they can control. It further indicates that the Kenyan Defence Force (KDF), which is backed by one Somalia faction against others, arrested a senior Somali government army officer and used heavy weapons in civilian areas. According to the letter, the “incompetence” of the Kenyan commander of AMISOM in southern Somalia is said to have caused an outbreak of recent fighting in the southern port city of Kismayo which has led to a “preliminary” count of 65 dead and 155 injured. According to on-the-ground reports in Mogadishu, the letter appears to have been emailed to journalists accidentally after someone had mistakenly included the Prime Minister’s “press contacts” into the email recipients’ list.
The letter calls for the “immediate deployment” of a multinational African peacekeeping force to take over control in southern Somalia in a bid to calm the situation, which threatens to destabilize a region of the country which continues to be threatened by al-Shabaab militants. Although the Kenyan AMISOM contingent was recently reinforced by several hundred troops from Sierra Leone, Sierra Leoneans are “embedded” inside the Kenyan units. As such, the KDF continues to be the dominating force in this region of Somalia, which has been classified by AMISOM as “Sector 2.” While the letter highlights the need for a multinational deployment in the region, it does not go as far as to say that Kenyan troops should be replaced. Instead, it pointedly states that new “political officers” should be appointed for the area “whose nationalities will be different from the AMISOM contingent in Sector 2.”
Although Kenyan authorities have not yet officially responded or made any comments pertaining to the newly released diplomatic letter, the Kenyan army has previously insisted that it was neutral in its dealing with Somalia and that it was only attempting to bring peace to its neighbor. However this is not the first time that the Kenyan troops have been accused of backing a militia force, which opposed the central Somali government in Mogadishu. Over the past several weeks, authorities in Somalia have accused Kenyan troops of supporting militia soldiers “in violation of their mandate,” as well as attacking civilians and arresting a top government army commander. These accusations culminated in the Somali government demanding several days ago that Kenyan troops stationed in Kismayo be replaced. With the accidental release of this confidential diplomatic letter, it appears that this time the Somali government’s accusation may confirm suspicions in the region that while Kenya’s troops are a part of AMISOM, they may also have their own agenda – to create a buffer zone to prevent further cross-border attacks which have plagued the border region ever since Kenya deployed its troops in Somalia in 2011. Kenyan forces seized Kismayo, which is located 480 km (300 miles) south of Mogadishu, from al-Shabaab in October 2012. Currently, there are several self-declared presidents of Jubbaland and the central government in Mogadishu does not recognize neither one of them. Although Somali and AU forces have driven al-Shabaab militants out of a number of major cities, its fighters still control the smaller towns and rural areas located in central and southern Somalia, where they have been able to launch attacks within government-controlled territory.