Grenades kill five in Somalia's seat of parliament

BAIDOA, Somalia Thu Nov 27, 2008 10:33am EST

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BAIDOA, Somalia (Reuters) - At least five people were killed and 17 injured Thursday when assailants tossed grenades into a busy market in the town where Somalia's parliament sits, witnesses said.

Islamist fighters have waged a nearly two-year campaign against Somalia's interim administration after government forces backed by Ethiopian troops ousted them from the capital.

Islamists now hold most of south Somalia while the weak, Western-backed government controls just Mogadishu and Baidoa, the seat of parliament.

"At least three civilians died and 17 others were wounded after unidentified men hurled two hand grenades at Baidoa market," Hussein Mohamed, a witness, told Reuters.

A doctor at a hospital in Baidoa said two of the injured people taken there had later died.

The violence has killed 10,000 civilians since early 2007, created more than a million internal refugees, and left more than three million Somalis in need of food aid.

Authorities in the northern enclave of Somaliland on Thursday blamed a hardline group of Islamists known as al Shabaab for simultaneous suicide attacks that killed at least 30 people at the end of October.

Al Shabaab, which is on Washington's list of foreign terrorist groups, has refused to join a coalition government and launches regular attacks on the capital from nearby strongholds.

TACKLE PIRACY ON LAND

Nearly two decades of chaos in the Horn of Africa country has created a breeding ground for kidnappings, banditry and rampant piracy in the busy shipping lanes off Somalia.

The chairman of the African Union, Jean Ping, said on Thursday efforts to resolve piracy would be futile unless a solution for the chaos onshore was found.

"Everybody in the world is mobilizing forces to fight piracy on the high seas, but the piracy in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean is an extension of the disorder inside Somalia," Ping said.

"It would not bring any result without tackling the root cause of the piracy which is the conflict inside Somalia."

In the latest kidnapping, two journalists from Britain and Spain were seized in the north-eastern Puntland region, along with two Somali men accompanying them.

An international media watchdog said it was worried about their safety.

"This abduction is a reminder that banditry, piracy and politically-motivated crime pose a constant threat to foreigners -- journalists and humanitarian workers -- who go to Somalia," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement Thursday.

In another kidnapping this month, Somali gunmen crossed over into neighboring Kenya and snatched two Italian nuns.

A Kenyan official told Reuters Thursday that talks for their release were ongoing and no ransom demand had been made.

(Additional reporting by Tsegaye Tadesse in Addis Ababa, Noor Ali in Garissa, Kenya; Writing by Helen Nyambura-Mwaura; Editing by David Clarke)

(Email: nairobi.newsroom@reuters.com, +254 20 222 4717))

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