Five suicide bombers strike in northern Somalia
Northern Somalia was rocked today with five suicide attacks on multiple facilities, killing 28 Somalis and wounding scores more. The attacks appear to be the handiwork of Shabaab, the al Qaeda backed Islamist terror group seeking to retake control of the country.
The attacks occurred nearly simultaneously in the autonomous regions of Puntland and Somaliland, two regions which have seen little violence related to the Shabaab-led insurgency.
Three suicide car bombers struck the presidential palace, the United Nations Development Program compound, and the Ethiopian Consulate in the city of Hargeisa in Somaliland. Two bombers targeted two intelligence facilities in the city of Bosasso in Puntland.
The Ethiopian Consulate in Hargeisa appears to have been the hardest hit. Twenty people have been reported killed after a suicide car bomber rammed into the wall of the consulate. The casualties are expected to rise. Reuters described the compound as "shattered." Three people were reported killed in the attack at the presidential palace, another two were killed at the Nations Development Program.
Three more people were killed in the attack at a compound run by Puntland's Intelligence Service. Two suicide car bombs detonated inside the compound, killing two soldiers and a woman. "It is too early to know all the casualties," the governor of the Bari region told Reuters.
While no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, the operation bears the hallmarks of al Qaeda. The synchronized attacks hit vital facilities and foreign agencies, and were timed to inflict massive casualties. Shabaab, al Qaeda's front in Somalia, was likely behind the strike.
The knowledge and experience to conduct such attacks is organic to Shabaab. Al Qaeda operatives Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan are senior leaders within Shabaab. Fazul serves as Shabaab's intelligence chief, while Nabhan is a senior member who also serves as a spokesman.
Fazul and Nabhan were responsible for planning and the execution of the coordinated bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. Fazul was also behind the 2002 car bombing attack in Kenya and missile attack on an Israeli airliner.
Fazul joined al Qaeda after traveling to Pakistan in 1990. He was a member of the al Qaeda team that participated in the Battle of Mogadishu in October 1993. Two US Black Hawk helicopters were shot down and 18 US soldiers were killed during the heavy street fighting.
The US has targeted Fazul and Nabhan, as well as Abu Tala al Sudani, in a series of airstrikes over the past two years. Sudani was killed in early 2007 during the fighting against Ethiopian and Somali forces during the Ethiopian invasion.
The Islamic Courts and Shabaab have conducted suicide attacks in the past. The first occurred in September of 2006, when two suicide bombers attempted to kill President Abdullahi Yusuf. The second occurred in December of the same year, when a bomber detonated at a military checkpoint outside of Baidoa. The Islamic Courts claimed credit for the attack. There were ten recorded suicide attacks in 2007
The Islamic Courts and Shabaab have stepped up its attacks against the weak Transitional Federal Government, and Ethiopian and African Union forces over the past several months. Islamic Courts and Shabaab fighters attack Somali and Ethiopian forces on a daily basis. The Islamists regained control of vast swaths of central and southern Somalia after being ousted from power in early 2007.
Shabaab has formally reached out to al Qaeda with a request for full integration into the terror network. Nabhan made the appeal on a videotape. In September, Shabaab announced "Operation No Peace Without Islam." The Campaign is designed to divide the weak Somali government and Ethiopia and the African Union, and project power outwards from the traditional strongholds in central and southern Somalia.
For more information on Shabaab and the recent fighting in Somalia, see:
• The Rise & Fall of Somalia's Islamic Courts: An Online History
Jan. 4, 2007
• Al Qaeda's East Africa operations chief escapes raid in Kenya
August 3, 2008
• Al Qaeda-linked Shabaab in control of southern Somalia
Aug. 25, 2008
• Shabaab reaches out to al Qaeda senior leaders, announces death al Sudani
Sept. 2, 2008
• Islamic Emirate of Somalia imminent as Shabaab races to consolidate power
Sept. 8, 2008
• Shabaab vows to close Mogadishu's airport
Sept. 15, 2008