Somali officials escape assassination bids
(Adds grenade attack on hotel)
By Guled Mohamed
MOGADISHU, June 27 (Reuters) - Somalia's trade minister and former defence minister escaped assassination attempts, which killed two other people, in the latest Iraq-style guerrilla attacks on government targets, witnesses said on Wednesday.
A roadside bomb hit Trade Minister Abdullahi Ahmed Afrah's convoy late on Tuesday in a busy north Mogadishu street. A female passer-by was killed and eight people including four of the minister's bodyguards were injured, locals said.
"The minister escaped death narrowly," resident Omar Rage told Reuters. "It was a remote-controlled roadside bomb. It exploded as soon as his vehicle passed."
On Wednesday, a landmine detonated near former Defence Minister Abdikadir Adan Shire's car in the central Somali district of Bardhere. Shire, now a member of Somalia's parliament, was rushed to hospital with head injuries.
"The driver lost his two legs and died. Four others are wounded," an aide to the former minister said by telephone.
The interim Somali government was set up in 2005 in the 14th attempt to restore central rule in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation since the ousting of a dictator in 1991. It accuses Somalia's militant Islamist movement of launching such attacks.
Since they were chased out of the capital at the start of the year, the Islamists have waged an insurgency against the government and its Ethiopian military backers, with targeted assassinations becoming a favoured method of late.
In further violence in Mogadishu on Wednesday, four civilians were wounded when assailants hurled three hand grenades at police in the city's sprawling Bakara Market.
"Officers chased them and shot dead one of the men. The other two escaped into the crowd," Ali Nur, a senior policeman leading the convoy that was attacked, said from the scene.
Then in the south-central town of Baidoa, a man threw a grenade from a car at a busy hotel housing some legislators.
"There were so many people at the time outside the hotel drinking tea and coffee. There must be some fatalities," Baidoa resident Shire Mohamed said.
But hotel owner Adan Abdirahman told Reuters there were only two injuries. "Two civilians have been wounded. The grenade fell inside the hotel. Police have sealed off the area," he said.
The government -- and many in the international community -- are pinning hopes for peace on a twice-postponed national reconciliation conference that is scheduled to start on July 15.
In a move clearly intended to appease Islamists, conference chairman Ali Mahdi said he had spoken to a leading figure in the group about whether they would attend.
"I spoke to Ibrahim Adow, who is in charge of foreign relations for the Islamic Courts. We spoke about how all parties can attend the national reconciliation conference. We are waiting for a word from them," he told reporters in Mogadishu.
Adow was in Qatar when he spoke to Mahdi, but is based in Eritrea with other prominent Somali Islamist exiles. (Additional reporting by Ibrahim Mohamed in Mogadishu and Mohamed Ahmed in Baidoa)
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