Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 00:26 am (KSA) 21:26 pm (GMT)

Somali Islamists planning wave of attacks: AU

Last weekend 40 people were killed in two attacks on mosques (File)
Last weekend 40 people were killed in two attacks on mosques (File)

Hard-line Islamist rebels are planning to carry out a wave of suicide attacks on the capital Mogadishu with vehicles packed full of explosives, the African Union peacekeeping force in Somalia (AMISOM) said on Wednesday.

A three year insurgency led by al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab militants has ravaged the bullet-scarred city and claimed at least 21,000 lives in the African nation since early 2007.

 They have prepared several vehicles loaded with explosives both in Mogadishu and surrounding areas to carry out atrocities against the innocent civilian population 
AMISOM statement

"Credible information reaching AMISOM indicates that some of the armed opposition groups are planning to carry out a series of synchronized suicide attacks and planting IEDs (improvised explosive device) in public places," AMISOM said in a statement.

"They have prepared several vehicles loaded with explosives both in Mogadishu and surrounding areas to carry out atrocities against the innocent civilian population," it said.

AMISOM said mosques and markets were the most likely targets and urged residents to be on the lookout for four Toyota 4x4s, a white lorry with an AU insignia, two Nissan diesel lorries, a "battlewagon" and a van.

Last weekend 40 people were killed in two attacks on mosques in Mogadishu and the southern port city of Kismayu.

Analysts say the Islamist fighters are increasingly copying the tactics of insurgents in Iraq where Sunni and Shiite militia often target each other's mosques. No group has claimed responsibility for the Somali attacks.

"The extremists' forces have of late become desperate after losing the support of the people and experiencing infighting within their leadership," AMISOM said.

In March, Ahlu Sunna Waljamaca (ASWJ), a rebel group that comprises moderate Sufi Muslims fighting the insurgent groups al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam in central Somalia said they had agreed to join the government.

Reservations

Ahlu Sunna's spiritual leader, Sheikh Mahmoud Sheikh Hassan, on Wednesday expressed reservations on joining the government and said he had ordered his men to leave Mogadishu.

"It is true; we have pulled out of this agreement. I ordered our delegation to leave Mogadishu and join us here to defend our territories," Ahlu Sunna spiritual leader Sheikh Mahmoud Sheikh Hassan, told Reuters by phone from Dhusamareeb.

Ahlu Sunna was due to take up cabinet positions in the government in April, but has quarrelled with the government over who should represent them and over fulfilling the deal terms.

There is also disagreement on whether Ahlu Sunna has pulled out of the deal.

"We did not pull out of the agreement. I have heard that from the radio, but our leaders did not tell us to pull out," Ali Hussein, one of Ahlu Sunna's negotiators in Mogadishu, said.

Journalist killed

 This murder is a barbaric waste, first of human life, and secondly of a seasoned journalist in a country that now more than ever needs the skills of veteran reporters 
IPI director David Dadge

In a separate incident in Mogadishu, Islamist gunmen shot dead a prominent journalist, the first reporter to be killed in Somalia this year, one of his colleagues said.

Sheikh Nur Abkey, who was in his sixties and worked for the state-run Radio Mogadishu, was killed iwhile he was on his way home late on Tuesday.

"Al-Shabaab men have killed Sheikh Nur Abkey ... after they killed him, they called us and told us they killed him," Abdirahman Yusuf, the editor of Radio Mogadishu, told Reuters.

Press watchdog IPI condemned the murder of the journalist, whose bullet-riddled and mutilated body was discovered in the capital Mogadishu.

"This murder is a barbaric waste, first of human life, and secondly of a seasoned journalist in a country that now more than ever needs the skills of veteran reporters," IPI director David Dadge said in a statement.

Somalia is one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists. Last year nine were killed and some foreign journalists have been seized by militants and held for ransom.

Last year, nine journalists were killed there by armed militias, who also often kidnap foreign reporters for ransom.

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