Suicide bombers kill at least 28 in Somalia

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The Independent Online

A wave of suicide bombings killed at least 28 people across northern Somalia today in attacks that snatched attention from political crisis talks taking place in neighbouring Kenya.

The five synchronised blasts killed some 25 people in Hargeisa and another three in Bosasso.

No group immediately claimed responsibility. But in recent months, Islamist insurgents fighting Somalia's Western-backed interim government and its Ethiopian allies have launched attacks to coincide with international efforts to end turmoil in the lawless Horn of Africa nation.

The bombers hit as leaders of the interim government met regional heads of state for talks in Nairobi. The four-year-old administration is under pressure to solve the chaos and share some power with moderate opposition figures.

Washington, and its closest ally in the region Ethiopia, say Somalia's Islamists are linked to Osama bin Laden's al-Qa'ida.

"It is the work of the usual terrorists who try to create instability. I assure you they will not be left to get away with it. They will be brought to justice," Ethiopian Foreign Minister Seyoum Mesfin told reporters at the meeting.

In Hargeisa, in the breakaway Somaliland region, witnesses said three bombers attacked the president's office, a UN Development Programme (UNDP) compound and the Ethiopian embassy.

Journalist Ali Jama Mohamed was walking past the presidency when a car crashed into its doors.

"There was a big explosion and I saw many people, mostly pedestrians and some security guards, thrown to the floor. Some were dead and others wounded," Mohamed told Reuters.

Witnesses said three people were killed at the presidency, while at least 20 died at the shattered Ethiopian mission. Two people were killed at the UNDP building.

In Bosasso, in neighbouring semi-autonomous Puntland, two suicide bombers detonated explosives-laden cars inside the Intelligence Service compound, killing two soldiers and a woman and wounding several other people.

"The two cars and their drivers were blown to pieces," Muse Gelle, the governor of Bari region, told Reuters. "It is too early to know all the casualties. Tensions are high and Puntland soldiers have surrounded all government institutions."

Puntland and Somaliland had been relatively quiet compared to southern Somalia, where the government and its Ethiopian military allies have been battling rebels waging a campaign of roadside bombs, artillery strikes and assassinations.

The violence has killed nearly 10,000 civilians and an unknown number of combatants since the start of last year. More than a million people have been driven from their homes.