Islamists claim suicide attack on Somali premier
(Adds US comments)
By Guled Mohamed
MOGADISHU, June 4 (Reuters) - A militant Islamist group on Monday claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb that killed seven people at the home of Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, vowing to continue attacks until "occupiers" left Somalia.
The claim came several hours before Ethiopian soldiers allied to Gedi's government shot dead a would-be suicide bomber targeting their headquarters in the chaotic Somali capital.
The would-be attacker was racing toward the command base in western Mogadishu and had already run two blockades when Ethiopian and government soldiers fired at his car, a security official said.
"An Ethiopian sharpshooter on a rooftop fired a machinegun at the car, instantly killing the suicide bomber and blowing up the car, which was filled with explosives," the security official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
The official said an 18-year-old man walking nearby was injured in the blast, which a Reuters reporter heard.
Suicide bombings -- unheard of in Somalia until this year -- and roadside blasts are on the rise in the coastal capital, where Islamist rebels have vowed an Iraq-style insurgency to bring down Gedi's Ethiopian-backed government.
Gedi, who has now survived four attempts on his life in the last two years, blamed al Qaeda for the Sunday night blast at his compound in north Mogadishu.
"Suicide bombers linked with terrorism and the al Qaeda network attacked my residence to eliminate me, my family and all the government officials who were in a meeting with me," Gedi told a news conference on Monday.
Five soldiers and two civilians died when the bomber detonated a vehicle rigged with explosives at the gates of his large compound in a heavily guarded northern neighbourhood. African Union peacekeepers raced in to whisk him to safety.
A group calling itself the Mujahideen Youth Movement said in a statement on the Internet that "a lion ... our brave brother Abdul-Aziz Mohammad Semter ... carried out a heroic martyrdom operation at the residence of the apostate prime minister".
It said: "Your brethren at the Mujahideen Youth Movement are pressing on with their holy fight against all occupiers and apostates." The statement could not be immediately verified but was on a site used by al Qaeda and other Islamist militants.
The United States and the EU condemned the attack. "This attack highlights the efforts of extremists and terrorists to disrupt the national reconciliation process. They will not succeed," said U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack.
Gedi's interim administration, which is due to pave the way for elections in 2009, was established in 2005 in the 14th attempt to bring central rule to the Horn of Africa nation since the 1991 fall of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre ushered in anarchy.
But despite two major offensives against Islamist strongholds in Mogadishu earlier this year, which killed at least 1,300 people and sent scores of thousands fleeing the city, the insurgents have not been defeated.
The government had hoped to hold a national reconciliation conference in mid-June, but that looks a tall order in the current climate of insecurity. (Additional reporting Inal Ersan in Dubai, Farah Roble in Mogadishu and David Brunnstrom in Brussels)
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