Blasts shatter calm in Somali capital; 19 dead
MOGADISHU, Somalia — Nineteen people were killed in the Somali capital on Sunday in a two-hour attack by al Shabaab terrorists, breaking a fragile return to peace in Mogadishu and underscoring the fact that the weakened al Qaida-allied militia has not yet been beaten.
The first of three bombs exploded just before noon outside the Mogadishu courthouse. Witnesses said attackers dressed in Somali military uniform stormed the buildings and opened fire.
Ugandan troops — part of the African Union force stationed in Mogadishu — arrived at the scene shortly after the shooting started, the BBC reported. As the forces fought to contain the terrorists, several lawyers, court officers and bystanders died in the gunbattle, sources in Mogadishu told The Christian Science Monitor.
“Armed men entered the court, and then we heard a blast. Then they started opening fire,” witness Hussein Ali, who works at the courts, told Reuters.
A second bomb was detonated during the firefight, the Monitor reported.
The Somali government said that nine gunmen had been involved in the assault, and all were killed. Six of them detonated suicide vests, it said.
Reuters reporters counted 16 bodies around the courts compound, some of them in uniform, some not, but it was not clear how many of them were government soldiers, attackers or civilians.
Later, a bomb exploded near an African Union and Turkish Red Crescent convoy near the airport, killing three, including two Turkish aid workers and the attacker.
Al Shabaab said it carried out the attacks, according to the Associated Press.
The violence is the worst in the city since al Shabaab was pushed out of the city by African Union and Somali forces in August 2011.
“These attacks appear to have been coordinated and well-planned,” a political source close to the Somali government told the Monitor. “It seems clear that they wanted to target symbols of Somalia's political and judicial progress in the past year, and thought that killing lawyers and court officials would appeal to people they think still support them.”