At least 16 dead in pair of bomb­ings in So­ma­lia’s Baidoa

Texarkana Gazette - - NATION/WORLD - By Abdi Guled

NAIROBI, Kenya—A sui­cide bomber det­o­nated in a restau­rant in the So­mali town of Baidoa and an­other blast struck a ho­tel nearby, leav­ing at least 16 peo­ple dead and more than 30 wounded, au­thor­i­ties said Sat­ur­day.

Most of the ca­su­al­ties were caused by the bomber who walked into the restau­rant with ex­plo­sives strapped around his waist, Col. Ahmed Muse told The As­so­ci­ated Press.

Many of the wounded at Baidoa's main hos­pi­tal had hor­rific in­juries, nurse Mo­hamed Isaq told the AP.

The al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab ex­trem­ist group claimed re­spon­si­bil­ity for the blasts via its ra­dio arm, An­dalus. It said one blast tar­geted a ho­tel owned by a for­mer So­mali min­is­ter, Mo­hamed Aden Far­geti, one of sev­eral can­di­dates run­ning for the pres­i­dency of the re­gion in Novem­ber's elec­tion.

Baidoa is a key eco­nomic cen­ter about 155 miles west of the cap­i­tal, Mo­gadishu, and about the same dis­tance east of the Ethiopian bor­der. Al-Shabab, which con­trolled Baidoa be­tween 2009 and 2012 be­fore be­ing driven out by Ethiopian-backed gov­ern­ment forces, still holds parts of south­ern and cen­tral So­ma­lia.

The blasts came a day be­fore So­ma­lia marks the first an­niver­sary of the dead­li­est at­tack in its his­tory, a truck bomb­ing that killed more than 500 peo­ple in Mo­gadishu.

At­ten­tion in re­cent days has turned to Baidoa, the in­terim cap­i­tal of South West state, as high-level al-Shabab de­fec­tor Mukhtar Robow seeks the re­gional pres­i­dency in Novem­ber.

On Sat­ur­day he vis­ited some of the wounded in Baidoa's main hos­pi­tal, con­demn­ing the at­tacks and call­ing on peo­ple to team up in fight­ing the ex­trem­ist group of which he once was deputy leader.

Robow is the high­est-rank­ing of­fi­cial to have ever quit al-Shabab, sur­ren­der­ing to the So­mali gov­ern­ment last year af­ter the United States cancelled a $5 mil­lion re­ward of­fered for his cap­ture.

So­ma­lia's gov­ern­ment ear­lier this month said Robow was not el­i­gi­ble to run for the re­gional pres­i­dency be­cause he is still un­der U.S. sanc­tions that were im­posed against him in 2008 when he was iden­ti­fied as a "spe­cially des­ig­nated global ter­ror­ist."

Robow, who has yet to re­spond to the gov­ern­ment's state­ment, has con­tin­ued his cam­paign and re­mains reg­is­tered on the list of can­di­dates.

He is among sev­eral peo­ple chal­leng­ing for­mer So­mali par­lia­ment speaker and in­cum­bent re­gional pres­i­dent Sharif Has­san Sheikh Aden. Among the can­di­dates is So­ma­lia's for­mer in­tel­li­gence chief Hus­sein Os­man, who has just re­signed.

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