Somalia forces foil major Al-Shabaab attack

Somali soldiers, part of an elite combat unit called Danab, preparing for live fire drills at a military base in Baledogle, Somalia, earlier this month. [Photo: New York Times]

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Hawk-eyed Somalia security forces foiled a would-be deadly Al-Shabaab attack, police revealed, with the militants targeting flood-prone Beledweyne town in Central Somalia where the group has been carrying out attacks mostly against innocent civilians and security officers.

Sirad Omar, a senior police officer, said security forces intercepted a suicide bomber with explosives in a bag just moments before he blew them up. This was a well-calculated security move that saved many innocent lives, said the officer, while acknowledging contributions by members of security teams.

"The police ordered him to halt, but he threw the bag and fled," he said. "He was almost blowing himself up and the outcome would have been absolutely devastating. This was a timely intervention and we are grateful to the police officers for their swift action."

The explosive was left at the entrance of a popular restaurant near the Liqliqato Bridge in the bustling Howlwadag neighbourhood, a frequent meeting spot for traditional elders and military officials. The militants usually target civilians, members of security forces, and senior government officials.

Although the explosives managed to detonate, they did not cause mass damage, the officer said, adding that only a few buildings were affected. The suspect, who is believed to be a member of Al-Shabaab managed to escape and a manhunt operation has been launched to pursue him, he said.

A few months ago, in the same central Somali town of Beledweyne, at least 20 people were killed and 36 others injured in triple explosions. The al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the attack, which was widely condemned by members of the international community and local politicians.

Beledweyne town has been facing attacks from the militants for a while but the recent operation against the group significantly reduced their threat. The government of Somalia is activating the second phase of operations against the group which has lost significant territories in recent months.


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