Sunday, April 26, 2009

8 Killed In Attack on Somalia Parliament

8 killed in attack on Somali parliament

10:52 26/04/2009

At least eight people have been killed and 15 wounded when militia fired mortars at Somalia's parliament, but no legislators were hurt, police said.

The attack comes after a lull in violence in the capital. No group has so far claimed responsibility but the assault comes just a day after a hardline opposition leader said Islamists would continue fighting the Horn of Africa nation's government.

"The mortar attack happened today when a parliamentary session ended. There are no MP casualties but eight other people died when several mortars hit villages near the venue," Deputy police commander Yusuf Hussein Dhumal said.

One of those killed, and four of those wounded were policemen, he said.

Somali legislators have been meeting at the national police headquarters because parliament buildings have been destroyed during the years of fighting.

Opposition leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys returned to Somalia on Thursday in the first known trip home since his Islamic Courts Union was pushed out of Mogadishu by an Ethiopian-led offensive in late 2006.

Aweys, who is on a US terrorism list for alleged links to al Qaeda, told supporters on Friday he would only hold talks with the government once A.U. peacekeepers in Somalia leave.

There are about 4,300 African Union peacekeeping troops in Somalia and the soldiers from Burundi and Uganda come under frequent mortar and suicide attacks. Aweys also said Islamists would continue fighting President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed's government.

He and Ahmed once headed the Islamic Courts Union and later, the Alliance for the Re-Liberation of Somalia, but fell out when Ahmed joined UN-brokered talks in Djibouti that installed him as president.

Aweys, who has been living in Eritrea, denies any terrorism links.

Presidential aides say Ahmed has been trying to have Aweys taken off the US list of terrorist suspects and left some empty seats in the new expanded parliament in case Aweys and his party want to join the government.

International donors this week pledged at least US$213 million to bolster Somalia forces to a police force of some 10,000 personnel and a security force of 5,000.

The country has known no peace since warlords ousted dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991 and then turned on each other. Ahmed's administration is the 15th attempt in 18 years to set up a central government since.

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