Somali president escapes mortar attack

Islamic insurgents fired mortars at the airport as a plane carrying President Abdullahi Yusuf was about to take off on Sunday, officials said. The president was unharmed.

Sunday’s attack at Mogadishu’s airport was not an assassination attempt but a bid to disrupt his departure for a UN Security Council meeting, presidential spokesman Hussein Mohamed Mohamud said.

The insurgents “tried to disrupt the president’s departure to Djibouti but they failed,” Mohamud told The Associated Press. He said Yusuf’s plane took off safely soon after the attack.

Yusuf is set to meet the Security Council, which is making a six-nation Africa trip to promote peace, in neighboring Djibouti on Monday.

Officials gave conflicting reports about injuries in Sunday’s attack. An immigration official who works at the airport, Halane Ahmed Asir, said two mortars hit the runaway some distance from the president’s plane. He said three other mortars hit the airport building.

He said an airport employee and a Ugandan soldier who is a member of the African Union mission guarding the airport were slightly injured.

However, African Union spokesman Major Barigye Bahoku said no one was wounded.

Somalia has been in a state of anarchy since warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. In December 2006, neighboring Ethiopia sent troops to prop up Yusuf’s UN-backed government, which has been unable to assert much authority and is fighting an Islamic insurgency in the capital.

Thousands of civilians have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes in a burgeoning humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa nation.

Late Saturday, about 50 heavily armed men attacked a police post in the Kenyan border town of Dadajabulla, said Stephen Chelimo, police chief for the Northeastern Province.

He said the men set free three men arrested earlier that day with “powerful communication gadgets,” then stole police cars and firearms. Chelimo said a police officer was injured in the raid. Kenyan police deployed more officers along the border, Chelimo said.

The suspects detained earlier were suspected Islamic insurgents, said Ali Hussein Nor, district commissioner of the town of Dobley.

 

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