Shabaab suicide bomber kills 3 members of Somali parliament

A Shabaab suicide bomber killed three members of Somalia’s parliament in an attack today at a hotel in Dusamareb, a city controlled by a militia that supports the government.

The suicide bomber detonated his vest as several members of parliament met at a cafe in a Dusamareb hotel, according to Reuters. The three MPs and another person were killed in the blast, and several more were wounded, said a spokesman for the Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a, a Sufi militia that controls the city and is backed by the government and Ethiopia.

Shabaab claimed credit for today’s suicide attack and also claimed that Ethiopian and Ahlu Sunna Wal Jama’a officials were killed in the blast.

Shabaab has carried out 10 suicide attacks in Somalia already this year [see list below]. The terror group’s attacks have targeted Somali politicians and security personnel as well as Ethiopian and African Union forces. In the April 4 suicide attack at a theater in Mogadishu, the presidents of Somalia’s Olympic committee and soccer federation, one of Prime Minister Ali Abdiweli’s advisers, and a member of parliament were among 10 people killed. Prime Minister Abdeweli was present at the theater. And on March 14, four people were killed by a suicide bombing inside the presidential palace compound in Mogadishu.

Background on Shabaab and its links to al Qaeda

Shabaab and its predecessor, the Islamic Courts Union, have carried out more than 30 suicide attacks in Somalia since they sought to control the country in 2006 (the Islamic Courts Union was ousted from power a few months later, in an invasion by Ethiopian forces in December 2006). At least two of those suicide attacks were carried out by American citizens.

Shabaab has also executed a suicide attack outside Somalia’s borders: the July 11, 2010 double suicide attack in Kampala, Uganda, that killed 74 people. It was carried out by a suicide cell called the Saleh ali Nabhan Brigade, which is named after the al Qaeda leader who served as Shabaab’s military commander before his death in a US special operations raid in September 2009.

Shabaab and its Kenyan branch, the Muslim Youth Center, formally joined al Qaeda in February of this year. The east African terror groups were closely tied to al Qaeda for years prior, however; Shabaab leaders had openly proclaimed their allegiance to al Qaeda long before the official merger.

Today’s attack takes place as the African Union Mission in Somalia, or AMISOM, is pressing the terror group on three fronts. Ethiopian troops have advanced from the west, seizing the cities of Baidoa, Beledweyne, and Hudur over the past several months. The African Union stated that Ethiopian forces would withdraw from Baidoa and Beledweyne in April, and will be replaced by 2,500 peacekeepers from Burundi, Uganda, and Djibouti.

Burundian and Ugandan forces have taken control of Mogadishu after Shabaab abandoned much of the city last summer, and are slowly pressing westward to Afgoye, a Shabaab stronghold just 15 miles outside of the capital.

In the south, Kenyan forces have established a buffer zone but have stopped short of taking control of the Shabaab strongholds of Afmadow and the port city of Kismayo. Kenyan troops have been fighting in Somalia since mid-October, and have only advanced to about 40 miles inside the country.

Shabaab still controls other major towns and cities along the coast between Kismayo and Mogadishu, including Jilib, Baraawe, and Merca.

Shabaab suicide attacks in 2012:

May 1, 2012: A Shabaab suicide bomber killed three members of Somalia’s parliament and another Somali in an attack at a hotel in Dusamareb.

April 18, 2012: A suicide bomber killed two Somali soldiers in Baidoa.

April 17, 2012: A suicide bomber attacked a security headquarters in Baidoa, killing one official. Shabaab claimed that three Ethiopian soldiers and two Somali troops were killed in the suicide attack.

April 4, 2012: Shabaab claimed credit for a bombing at the national theater that killed 10 people, including the presidents of Somalia’s Olympic committee and soccer federation. Prime Minister Ali was at the theater.

March 14, 2012: A Shabaab suicide bomber killed four people in an attack in the presidential palace compound in Mogadishu. Shabaab claimed the attack was carried out to take revenge “for the defilement & desecration” of Korans.

March 3, 2012: A suicide bomber killed only himself during a premature detonation near a Burundian military base in Mogadishu.

Feb. 8, 2012: A Shabaab suicide bomber killed nine Somalis in Mogadishu.

Jan. 31, 2012: A suicide bomber killed two guards at the home of a former warlord in Galkayo.

Jan. 23, 2012: A Shabaab suicide bomber attacked an Ethiopian base in Beledweyne; the number of casualties was not reported.

Jan. 20, 2012: Six people were killed in a suicide attack at a refugee camp in Mogadishu.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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