Somali leader taken to presidential complex after attack

MOGADISHU — Somalia’s newly elected president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has been moved to the secure presidential compound following an assassination bid at his hotel, officials said Thursday.

Hassan was unharmed after two blasts went off Wednesday outside the hotel where he had been meeting a visiting Kenyan delegation, but three soldiers were killed in what appeared to be an attack by multiple suicide bombers.

A spokesman for the African Union Mission in Somalia, Colonel Ali Houmed, said the new head of state who was elected Monday is now staying at Villa Somalia, which was still home to outgoing president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

Western observers had said they were surprised the new president was housed in a hotel — even if it was just a few hundred metres from the capital’s well-protected airport, which is AMISOM’s main base — rather than at Villa Somalia.

A Somali security official confirmed to AFP that the new leader had been taken to the Villa Somalia a few hours after the attack claimed by Shebab Islamist extremists.

Sharif will stay with Hassan, who garnered 70 percent of the votes in Monday’s election, at Villa Somalia until the official handover Sunday, he said.

Hassan survived the twin blasts that hit the hotel he had moved into on Monday and where he was meeting Somalis and foreign delegations.

Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at the hotel gates and a third was shot by security forces while the new president was talking to journalists inside the hotel together with Kenyan Foreign Minister Sam Ongeri.

The assailants apparently wore security forces’ uniforms.

Three soldiers — two Somalis and a Ugandan from AMISOM, were killed. None of the occupants of the hotel was hurt.

Hassan was the first Somali president to be elected in Mogadishu since Siad Barre, whose ouster in 1991 plunged the Horn of Africa country into civil war.

The various transitional presidents who have succeeded one another since 2000 were all elected in other countries for security reasons.

Hassan’s election completed a long political transition process backed by the UN and aimed at restoring permanent institutions in Somalia and it fuelled hopes that the country might be able to emerge from two decades of war.

“Yesterday’s attack underlines what we all know, that Al-Shabab still have capabilities and presence in Mogadishu, and that game is not over yet,” a European diplomat told AFP Thursday.


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