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Somalia's Al Shabab launches suicide attack ahead of talks

Car bomb kills 15 in the government-controlled center of Mogadishu just weeks before Somali officials attend a London conference on long-term solutions to country's unrest.

By Scott BaldaufStaff Writer / February 9, 2012

Somalis observe the remains of a vehicle used in a car bomb attack in the capital Mogadishu, Somalia, Feb. 8. A car bomb killed eight people and wounded two members of parliament in Somalia's capital Wednesday, officials said, in an attack claimed by a spokesman for Somalia's al-Shabab Islamist insurgency.

Farah Abdi Warsameh/AP

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A suicide car bomb attack, apparently aimed at two Somali lawmakers in the heart of the government-controlled center of Mogadishu, has left 15 people dead. It’s the latest sign that the Islamist militant group Al Shabab – which claims a link with Al Qaeda – still has the capacity to disrupt, even as it loses territory under a three pronged assault by Kenya, Ethiopia, and the African-Union-backed government of Somalia itself.

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The blast comes just two weeks before a conference in London to discuss possible long term solutions in Somalia, which has seen more than two decades of civil conflict, and the blossoming of a pirate industry that targets commercial ships in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean for ransom.

Al Shabab took credit for the Wednesday attack near the Muno Hotel in Mogadishu, reports Bloomberg. Police say the attackers rammed their car into a café at the hotel, opening fire on customers before detonating the car bomb.

“The holy suicide attack occurred as it was intended because the hotel housed so-called lawmakers who compete with Allah to draft a constitution,” Sheikh Abdi Aziz Abu Musab, a spokesman for the [Al Shabab] rebel movement, said in comments on Radio Andulus, a broadcaster controlled by the militia.

Somalia’s Deputy Interior Minister Abdihakim Egeh said that the attack would not slow Somalia’s steady progress, reports Voice of America.

“After our government liberated Mogadishu, people are coming back to their houses; they are coming back to rebuild their destroyed businesses and houses, and, it’s really depressing to see something like this [Wednesday’s bombing],” Egeh said.

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“I can assure you that the streets of Mogadishu are becoming safer and safer every day, and I’d like to take this moment to thank our security forces for making this possible,” Egeh said.

The attack came on the day of a visit by the European Union’s new envoy to the Horn of Africa, Alexander Rondos, and just a few days after a similar visit by British Foreign Secretary William Hague. Both the EU and the British government – as well as several of Somalia’s neighbors -- have increased their support for the shaky transitional government of Somalia, which has battled Al Shabab for control of the country since it came to power in 2008.

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