19 dead after al-Qaeda terror group hits Mogadishu

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AT least 19 people were killed in the Somali capital yesterday in suicide bombings and assaults by al Shabaab militants linked to al-Qaeda, breaking a fragile return to peace in Mogadishu.

A bomb exploded outside law courts in the city as gunmen stormed the compound. Security forces then arrived and battled the fighters inside. Later, a bomb exploded near an African Union and Turkish Red Crescent convoy near the airport.

Al Shabaab said it carried out the attacks.

“About seven well-armed men in government uniform entered the court today as soon as a car bomb exploded at the gate. We thought they were government soldiers,” said Aden Sabdow, who works at the mayor’s office adjacent to the court.

Witnesses at the scene said in addition to the car bombs, three of the gunmen who stormed the court also blew themselves up using explosives strapped on their bodies.

Security in Mogadishu has improved greatly since an African Union and Somali government offensive drove al Shabaab out of the coastal capital in August 2011. Now its rubble-strewn streets are choked with traffic and construction sites point to a new confidence as Somalis return from abroad and invest in their homeland.

“Somalia is moving and will keep moving forward and will not be prevented from achieving the ultimate noble goal, a peaceful and stable Somalia, by a few desperate terrorists,” president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said yesterday, after the attacks.

But the threat persists from al Shabaab, which still controls much of the countryside, and it has hit back this year with a series of bomb attacks.

“We carried out a superb intense mission in Mogadishu today. We killed 26 people including soldiers and court staff,” said al Shabaab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamud Rage.

“We assigned five special mujahideen for the court – four of them entered and killed the people inside. The other mujahid with his car bomb.”

Al Shabaab routinely inflates the number of people it kills.