Somalia

Landmine blast wounds 4 Somali policemen - officer

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By Guled Mohamed

MOGADISHU, May 7 (Reuters) - Four policemen were wounded on Monday in the first major attack in the Somali capital Mogadishu since fighting ended last month, and an officer accused Islamist rebels of detonating the landmine under a police van.

Policeman Mohamed Abdullahi said the attack was targeting the capital's police chief, Ali Said, who was not in the vehicle when it was hit close to the presidential palace.

"Ali Said was definitely the target. It's the remnants of the Islamic courts we have been fighting who are behind this," Abdullahi, a close aide to Said, told Reuters.

"It was a remote-controlled landmine that I think was put there last night. Since we patrol the streets in the daytime, it could not have been buried in the day," he added.

Witnesses said they saw the vehicle along with two other police vans patrolling the streets of Mogadishu, where some 1,400 people had died in the worst battles for 16 years since March.

"The car has been surrounded by policemen and Somali government officers. I can hear gun shots. I don't know who the troops are shooting at," a local reporter, who declined to be named, told Reuters from his office rooftop close to the scene.

There has been relative calm in the coastal city since the interim government, supported by Ethiopia and the United States, declared victory over insurgents more than a week ago.

The insurgency started after the government and its Ethiopian military allies defeated Islamist fighters in a lightning offensive over the New Year.

During the recent clashes, they were joined by a number of foreign jihadists and some disgruntled clan gunmen opposed to Ethiopia's presence on Somali soil.

The capital's newly-appointed mayor, former warlord Mohamed Dheere, has vowed to confiscate all guns from private citizens as part of the government's drive to restore law and order to the Horn of Africa country, deprived of central rule since 1991.

Somali business leaders who took up arms against the government started to surrender their weapons last week to African Union peacekeepers, who are supposed to take over security from Ethiopian troops.

Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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