Somalia presidential spokesman shot twice in capital
(Adds raid, fire in Bosasso)
By Guled Mohamed
MOGADISHU, June 19 (Reuters) - Somalia's presidential spokesman was shot twice at close range in the latest assassination attempt on government officials in the Horn of Africa nation, officials said on Tuesday.
"He was shot in the neck and near the jaw," a security source speaking on condition of anonymity told Reuters. "I think the gunman was aiming for the head. He wanted to eliminate him."
The security source, who saw Hussein Mohamed Mahamud "Hubsired" recuperating in a hospital run by African Union peacekeepers in Mogadishu, said he was in stable condition and was to be flown to Nairobi for treatment.
The gunman behind the shooting on Monday, a day which saw two other attacks against government targets, was unknown.
But insurgents from a militant Islamist movement ousted from Mogadishu routinely attack government soldiers and their Ethiopian backers, and have increasingly used Iraq-style tactics including assassinations, suicide bombings and roadside blasts.
Securing the coastal capital is a top priority for the interim government, which is leading the 14th attempt at restoring central rule to Somalia since warlords ousted the last president, dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, in 1991.
An aid worker said a joint force of Somali police and Ethiopian troops raided the offices of a women's charity in Mogadishu, accusing it of being linked to al Qaeda.
Tony Burns, the Nairobi-based director of operations for Saacid, said four staff were arrested and taken to an undisclosed location.
"They told us that we are an al Qaeda terrorist organisation. In today's raid, they confiscated ... all equipment and vehicles," Burns told Reuters.
In a move the government said is aimed at boosting a July 15 reconciliation conference, Somalia's cabinet this week approved a plan to release low-level Islamist fighters captured during the war to oust them from power in December and January.
The amnesty will not apply to those the government says have links to al Qaeda or who committed serious crimes, government spokesman Abdi Haji Gobdon said.
"We will release those who are mere fighters," Gobdon said. "This decision is in line with government efforts to boost the success of the reconciliation conference."
Gobdon declined to say how many fighters would be freed.
The Islamist movement during its brief reign had roughly 3,000 fighters, but security experts say its ranks swelled with draftees -- many of whom were forced into uniform -- as the war began in earnest in the last days of December.
Many diplomats say the reconciliation conference, twice delayed over security concerns, is the best chance for the government to boost its legitimacy and end the violence.
Suspected insurgents detonated a landmine that killed two people in an attempt to hit passing government vehicles, and one policemen was killed when attackers struck the Horuwa police station in northern Mogadishu, a pro-Islamist area.
In a separate incident, a fire tore through a camp housing refugees in the northern semi-autonomous Puntland region. Two children died in the blaze, which reduced nearly 300 makeshift homes to cinders, witnesses said. (Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Mogadishu, Abdiqani Hassan in Bosasso and Helen Nyambura-Mwaura in Nairobi)
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