MOGADISHU (Reuters) - Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi accused al Qaeda of being behind a suicide bombing that killed seven people outside his home in Mogadishu on Sunday and said its militants had to be eliminated.
The bombing occurred just hours after an official said Western jihadists were among the dead from U.S. missile strikes in northern Somalia.
Five soldiers and two civilians were killed when the bomber detonated a vehicle rigged with explosives at the gates of Gedi’s residence in a heavily guarded neighborhood of the Somali capital.
“I saw limbs nearly a kilometer from where the suicide bomber detonated,” a police officer at the scene, asking not to be named, said by telephone.
“We don’t know how the suicide bomber managed to pass through undetected ... The wounded cannot be counted.”
African Union peacekeepers raced to the area and whisked the prime minister to safety.
“This was a terrorist act by al Qaeda that was meant to create fear,” Gedi told a radio station. “We have been patient for so long. We can no longer cohabit with these terrorists ... We have to eliminate them.”
His interim administration is struggling to impose its authority on the anarchic Horn of Africa nation. Near daily attacks on government troops and their Ethiopian military allies are blamed on members of a defeated Islamist movement who have vowed to wage an “Iraq-style” insurgency.
On Friday, a U.S. warship fired missiles at a group of foreign fighters in the remote mountains of northern Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland. CNN said the target was an al Qaeda suspect.
The region’s finance minister said on Sunday six Islamists — from the United States, Britain, Sweden, Morocco, Pakistan and Yemen — had been killed in the strikes and in gun battles with local forces. He gave no other details.
In Singapore, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates declined to comment on the strikes, saying it was possibly an operation still in progress.
A Somali jihadist group calling itself the Young Mujahideen Movement said it suffered no casualties in what it called the random U.S. strikes and had killed 11 soldiers.
The Web posting could not be immediately verified but was on a site used by al Qaeda and other Islamists.
Sources told CNN the strikes were the second in six months aimed at a suspect in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 240 people.
The United States launched air strikes in southern Somalia in January aimed at three top al Qaeda suspects, killing other members of the group, U.S. officials have said.
They were believed to be in a group of Islamists who fled Mogadishu in January after being routed by Somali interim government forces and the Ethiopian military.
Washington says six al Qaeda militants or associates are in Somalia, including alleged embassy bomber Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, and Abu Talha al-Sudani, accused of orchestrating the 2002 bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya that killed 15.
Others include Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys, hardline leader of the ousted Somali Islamic Courts Council (SICC), and Adan Hashi Ayro, head of the SICC’s military wing, the Shabaab.
Somali hijackers have seized a Danish cargo ship and its five Danish crew in the latest case of piracy plaguing waters off Somalia, a Kenyan maritime official said on Sunday.
The Donica White was carrying building materials from Dubai to Kenya’s Mombasa port when gunmen boarded it late on Friday, said Andrew Mwangura, director of the Mombasa-based East African Seafarers Assistance Programme.
Additional reporting by Abdiqani Hassan in Bossasso