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Somalia mosque bomb targets Al Shabab leaders

A bomb attack in a Mogadishu mosque this weekend failed to kill Fuad Shongole, a top leader of Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab militia. But the Somalia mosque bomb is taking fighting there to a new level of intensity.

By Scott BaldaufStaff writer / May 3, 2010

A businesswoman waits for customers at a makeshift fuel station along a street near the main Somalia Bakara market in Mogadishu April 27. A bomb attack in a mosque in this market on Saturday failed to kill Fuad Shongole, a top leader of Somalia's Al Qaeda-linked Al Shabab militia.

Ismail Taxta/Reuters

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Johannesburg, South Africa

The bomb attack on a mosque in Mogadishu’s thriving Bakara market on Saturday marks a radical departure in the rules of war in Somalia.

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While there have been targeted killings in Somali mosques before, this marks the first time a bomb has been used, killing at least 32, including both members of the radical Al Shabab militia group as well as ordinary worshipers.

The target of the attack appears to have been Fuad Shongole, one of the top three Somali leaders of Al Shabab, but Mr. Shongole appears to have survived with injuries. In a radio interview after the blast, Shongole blamed unnamed foreign security firms working for the African Union for the bomb attack, and encouraged Islamist fighters to take revenge.

"The Muslim people of Somalia must fight the African Union troops of the occupying force using the means at their disposal, including suicide attacks," said Shongole. "Go to their compounds and make all the necessary sacrifices to fight these invaders."

Another level

In a war where even the army of the Somali government frequently shells busy marketplaces full of civilians, the bombing of a mosque at prayer time seems to be the last remaining taboo of war.

Details of how the bomb blast was carried out – with a planted bomb set off by remote control, or by suicide bombers wearing bomb vests – are still unknown, and if investigated may never be divulged.

Experts say that the bomb blast could be a signal of an internal power struggle within Al Shabab, although no group has taken credit for the attack.

“We don’t know who is responsible for the attack, but the most likely answer would be factions within Al Shabab itself,” says E.J. Hogendoorn, director of the Horn of Africa program for the International Crisis Group’s office in Nairobi. Whoever carried out the attack, Mr. Hogendoorn adds, it is certain that “this does really take the tit-for-tat attacks up another level. Mosques were considered out of bounds for bomb attacks.”

A 'staggering blow' to Al Shabab

No organization has claimed credit for the blast, but Ahlu Sunna Wal Jamaa, a moderate Islamist militia group that recently added its forces to the Somali transitional government, called the attack “a staggering blow to Al Shabab.”

“Our sources did not know who is behind this blast,” writes Abdul Kareem Hussein Abdi, an Ahlu Sunna spokesman based in Nairobi in an email to the Monitor. “Similar operations targeting extremist officers occurred recently at Dinsor district in Bay region.”

Mr. Abdi says his sources inform him that Shongole was wounded in the arm and in the chest, and that he was taken to Mogadishu’s Daynile Hospital for treatment.

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