MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somalia’s state minister for defence survived a suicide car bomb attack in the capital Mogadishu on Monday and vowed to carry on fighting insurgents who control much of the Horn of Africa nation.
Sheikh Yusuf Mohammad Siad, a former warlord also known as “Inda’ade” or “white eyes”, said three successive bombings targeted his convoy on the main road from a junction known as K4 to the presidential palace and seaport -- some of the few blocks of Mogadishu held by government and African Union (AU) forces.
“These explosions will only encourage me to fight against the rebels,” he told Reuters.
“The suicide car bomb hit the boot of one of my cars, I was in the car ahead. When we tried to assist injured civilians, another parked car loaded with explosives was detonated with a remote control. The third time we stopped to assist the injured civilians, a wheel barrow loaded with explosives was detonated,” he said.
The minister said two of his bodyguards were wounded in the attacks. A shopkeeper called Abdinur Ali said he had seen one civilian killed by the explosions.
Somalia’s Western-backed government has been gradually hemmed in by Islamist insurgents bent on toppling the administration and imposing their harsh version of sharia law throughout the country.
Five Somali ministers have been killed by suicide bombers since June. The security minister was killed in June in the central town of Baladwayne. In December, three ministers died in an attack at a graduation ceremony in the capital. A fourth, wounded in the same attack, died in hospital this month.
The government has been promising an offensive to clear the rebels from the capital for weeks. While it has yet to launch full-scale attack there has been on-off fighting for the past two weeks in several Mogadishu suburbs.
According to U.N. Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator, Mark Bowden, more than 80 civilians have been killed this month and some 8.000 residents have fled the capital.
“I am alarmed by the large number of casualties emanating from recent fighting in Mogadishu over the past two weeks. Civilians continue to bear the brunt of conflict and insecurity in the country,” he said in a statement.
Last week, at least 16 people were killed after a deafening barrage of artillery from African Union soldiers guarding the Villa Somalia presidential palace. The palace and the AU’s airport base are frequently hit by insurgent mortar shells.
The United Nations called on Monday for all sides to stop using “disproportionate” force against civilians.
“The humanitarian coordinator appeals to all parties to the conflict to protect civilians and to minimise the risks to the civilians by respecting and implementing their obligations under International Humanitarian Law,” it said in a statement.
Additional reporting by Abdi Sheikh; Writing by David Clarke; Editing by Peter Millership
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