Car bomb, gunmen attack gate at Somalia’s main airport; several deaths reported

By Mohamed Olad Hassan, AP
Thursday, September 9, 2010

Car bomb, gunmen attack airport in Somali capital

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A suicide car bomber and a vehicle with militant gunmen attacked the front gate to Mogadishu’s seaside airport on Thursday, triggering an explosion and gunbattle that killed several people, officials said.

The coordinated attack was the latest in a surge of assaults by Islamist insurgents, who last month declared a new, stepped-up effort to oust the country’s weak government.

After the car bomb exploded, a second vehicle full of militants opened fire at African Union and Somali security forces, said Osman Dahir, a police officer at the airport. He said there were several dead bodies of insurgents lying in front of the airport, but he didn’t know how many. Dahir said one Somalia airline employee was killed in the crossfire.

Vehicles from the African Union blocked the car bomb attacker from gaining entry into the airport, said Abdul Rahman Yussef, an official with Somalia’s army. The 7,000-man AU force guards the airport and presidential palace and prevents the al-Qaida-linked militant group al-Shabab from overthrowing Somalia’s weak government.

Yussef said he believes two women who were begging near the gate were killed and that a policeman was wounded. A spokesman with the African Union confirmed the car bomb attack but said he didn’t immediately have any more details.

No group immediately claimed responsibility, but the attack was likely carried out by al-Shabab, Somalia’s most dangerous militant group.

Late last month al-Shabab militants stormed a Mogadishu hotel favored by lawmakers and killed 32 people, including four parliamentarians. In July, al-Shabab masterminded twin bombings in Uganda’s capital during the World Cup final, attacks that killed 76 people.

Al-Shabab recently declared a new, stepped-up campaign to overthrow Somalia’s government and install the harsh, ultraconservative form of Sharia law that it practices across Somalia. Militant veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts help train al-Shabab fighters, one of the reasons the sophistication of its attacks has risen in recent months.

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