16 civilians killed during attack on Somali Parliament
MOGADISHU, Somalia — Islamic insurgents attacked a building in the Somali capital where Parliament was meeting yesterday for the first time this year, pounding the area with mortars. At least 16 civilians were killed in the fighting that ensued, a medical official said.
No lawmakers were killed or wounded in the attack, police spokesman Abdullahi Hassan Barise said. Previous sessions of Parliament had been postponed since December because of threats from al-Shabab, an Al Qaeda-linked militant group in the lawless Horn of Africa nation.
A number of lawmakers have fled the 550-member Parliament in Mogadishu and resettled in neighboring countries because of insecurity.
Militants have killed nine legislators over the last few years for supporting the Western-backed government of President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed. The government has been unable to provide security for them because it controls only a small part of Mogadishu.
Somalia has not had an effective Parliament for the past 19 years after warlords overthrew longtime dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.
Government forces backed by African Union troops fought back yesterday, pounding the insurgents’ positions with mortars.
Ali Muse, the head of Mogadishu’s ambulance service, said his staff counted 16 bodies. An additional 31 wounded people were taken to local hospitals.
In a separate development, a driver contracted by the World Food Program was killed Friday by three gunmen outside a hotel in the town of Galkayo, in what was believed to be clan-related violence.
Senior police officer Mohamed Ahmed confirmed the killing and said police were investigating. Peter Smerdon, a spokesman for the World Food Program, said the organization has no indication the slaying was connected to the driver’s employment.