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Attack in Somalia's Puntland 'kills eight': police

Thursday, December 05, 2013

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At least eight people were killed Thursday when a suicide car bomber rammed a convoy in Somalia's northern port of Bossasso, a region harbouring Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab insurgents where tensions are high ahead of elections in January.

"There was a car bomb attack targeting a vehicle of the security forces, he rammed the convoy and then exploded," Abdullahi Said, a police officer in the port town, told AFP.

"Several people have been killed, so far we confirm that eight were killed, but the toll could be higher, many of those who were injured were rushed to hospital."

Puntland's government said in a statement it "strongly condemns" the attack, in which 37 were wounded, including six soldiers.

The attack took place in a busy market area of Bossasso, the main port in Somalia's northeastern Puntland region, lying on its Gulf of Aden coast.

Shebab fighters operate from the rugged Golis mountains southwest of Bossasso, a lawless region under longtime control of warlord, arms dealer and Shebab ally Mohamed Said Atom, who has been hit with UN Security Council sanctions for "kidnapping, piracy and terrorism."

Shebab militia have attacked military bases near Bossasso in the past, and its suicide commandos regularly launch bomb attacks or guerrilla raids.

Puntland's government blamed the Shebab for carrying out the attack, although no group has claimed responsiblity.

"Al-Shebab...has carried out savage attacks against government and civilian targets in Puntland," the statement read.

"This destructive group is committed to carrying out acts of senseless violence, extremism and terrorism to achieve their evil goal."

Tensions are high in the semi-autonomous region as candidates gear up for presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for January 8.

The elections were originally due to have been held in July, but were postponed by the government which at the time said the risk of violence was too great to hold them.

Impoverished Puntland, which forms the tip of the Horn of Africa, has its own government, but unlike neighbouring Somaliland, it has not declared independence from Somalia.

Large parts of the region are still reeling from a devastating cyclone and heavy flooding last month, with aid agencies warning that over 100,000 were affected.

Somalia has been riven by civil war since the collapse of the central government in 1991.

The Shebab have been driven out of Somalia's major towns by a UN-mandated African Union force.

However the Shebab still controls large swathes of southern Somalia as well as pockets of Puntland.

The group claimed responsiblity for an attack in September on a shopping mall in Kenya's capital Nairobi, in retaliation for Kenya's military intervention in Somalia.



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