An assault on Somalia’s top court has claimed many lives, including those of the militants, according to country’s interior ministry. The two-hour attack was the worst violence in months in the capital Mogadishu.
All nine attackers died during the raid on Mogadishu’s main court on Sunday, according to Somali Interior Minister Abdikarim Hussein Guled. Six were suicide bombers. Security forces killed the remaining three while exchanging gunfire.
The interior minister could not confirm the total death toll, nor the proportion of civilian casualties compared with security forces members.
Somalia’s top leaders denounced the attack.
While Prime Minister Abdi Farah Shirdon called the raid a “pointless and pathetic act,” the president tsaid terrorists could not intimidate the rule of law.
“I want the terrorists to know that our country, Somalia, is moving and will keep moving forward and will not be prevented to achieve the ultimate noble goal, a peaceful and stable Somalia, by a few desperate terrorists,” President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said.
Al-Shabab, an al Qaeda-linked group, claimed responsibility for the attack in an interview with the news agency AFP.
“This was a holy action which targeted non-believers who were in a meeting within the court complex. We will continue until Somalia is liberated from invaders,” al-Shabab spokesman Sheikh Ali Mohamed Rage said.
A message on a Twitter feed believed to belong to the group also claimed responsibility.
“Such brazen attacks, on a broad daylight and in the heart of Mogadishu, are a clear testament to the influence of HSM forces in the capital,” one posting said, using the abbreviation HSM in reference to al-Shabab.
Al-Shabab has controlled parts of southern and central Somalia and, in recent years, has conducted an insurgency in the region in a bid to undermine the government.
Gunmen stormed the top court on Sunday afternoon, taking an unknown number of hostages. A car bomb was detonated simultaneously outside of the court complex.
Somali forces arrived at the scene soon after the assault began and engaged in around two hours of combat off with the militants.
The group had targeted the court’s chief justice, according to a Western official speaking to the Associated Press news agency on condition of anonymity.
Police commander, Mohamed Yusuf, later said that authorities had brought the chief justice and other senior officials to safety.
The strategic attack also targeted a Turkish aid group. Following the raid on the court, a suicide bomber crashed into a convoy transporting Turkish aid workers. The blast killed the Turkish group’s Somali driver and several passers-by. It was unclear how many passengers survived.
kms/msh (AP, AFP, Reuters)