Mogadishu - Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud escaped unhurt Tuesday
from an ambush on his heavily armoured convoy claimed by al-Qaeda linked
Islamists, the latest attack targeting the internationally backed leader.
Al-Shabaab gunmen claimed to have ambushed the convoy as it travelled to the
port of Merka south of the capital and boasted of destroying vehicles with
But officials said that the attack had failed and all in the presidential
entourage were safe.
"Gunmen tried to disrupt the president's trip ... but I can confirm the
president and his delegation are well and reached their final destination Merka
to have meetings with local community," said Somali army official Mohamed
Qorey, speaking by telephone from Merka.
The president was travelling in an armoured convoy from the 17 700-strong
African Union force (Amisom) that fights alongside the Somali army against Al-Shabaab
"We ambushed a convoy that was escorting the self-appointed Somali
president," Al-Shabaab spokesperson Abdulaziz Abu Musab told AFP.
The attack took place near the small settlement of Buffow, close to Merka, a
former Al-Shabaab stronghold captured one year ago around 100km south of the
"The presidential convoy was attacked but they have continued after
about 15 minutes of heavy gunfire," said Ibrahim Adan, a resident of
Diplomatic sources played down the attacks saying it had consisted of little
more than a roadside bomb.
Residents in Merka said Mohamud appeared in the port, greeting officials and
residents as he toured the town.
"He was fine and well, meeting the people who had come to see
him," said Nasir Abdirahmam, a resident of Merka.
Somalia's weak central government, selected in a UN-backed process in August
2012, has made some progress in Mogadishu but has little concrete influence
outside the capital.
The government was the first to be given global recognition since the
collapse of Somalia's hardline regime in 1991.
But the authorities have been dealt a number of setbacks in recent months,
including a string of Al-Shabaab attacks, accusations of rape against the army
and AU soldiers and a pull-out by aid workers because of a wave of kidnappings
Al-Shabaab fighters in May 2012 ambushed the convoy of Mohamud's predecessor,
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, but the president escaped unharmed.
More recently, Al-Shabaab fighters have carried out a series of bombings,
attacks and killings aimed at overthrowing the government.
UN Monitoring Group reports in July estimated the Al-Shabaab are still some
5,000 strong, and said they remain the "principal threat to peace and
security to Somalia".
In June, Al-Shabaab suicide commandos carried out a brazen daylight attack
on a fortified United Nations compound, and in July a suicide car bomber
attacked a Turkish embassy complex in the city.
Last month Doctors Without Borders - an aid agency that has earned a
reputation for working in the toughest of conditions -- closed all its
operations in the war-torn country, warning of growing insecurity.