MOGADISHU (AFP) â€” Violent attacks and retaliation by security forces led to the deaths of two police officers and five civilians in Mogadishu Monday, a day after Somali Prime Minister Ali Mohammad Gedi escaped a suicide car bomb attack.
In an escalation of violence in the war-wracked capital, Ethiopian and Somali forces killed three civilians and wounded five others after a failed handgrenade attack, while police killed two civilians after two police officers were shot dead, witnesses said.
The attacks also followed a deadly weekend assault in northeastern Somalia by security forces and a US warship against Islamist extremists with suspected links to Al Qaeda.
The grenade attack was the second failed strike Monday on Ethiopian-Somali troops in the northern district of Huriwa.
“Immediately after the grenade was thrown at the Ethiopian-Somali convoy, they opened heavy fire in the direction it came from,” witness Ahmed Ismail told AFP.
It was unclear who carried out the attack but many civilians had been standing at a nearby bus stop and small roadside market, he said.
“The three died immediately after the troops opened fire and their bodies have been collected by local elders,” said witness Abdullahi Daud. “Some other people might have been hurt further away because stray bullets were flying everywhere.” Ethiopian and Somali forces were not immediately available for comment.
In southern Mogadishu, a gunman shot dead two policemen during an operation to disarm civilians in the Bakara market area, and police shot dead two civilians after the attack, witnesses said.
“A policeman was shot dead by a man who was armed with a pistol and minutes later another policemen tried to arrest the man and he killed him too,” said witness Ahmed Nur Ali.
Police reinforcements arrived shortly after the attack and opened fire, killing two civilians, he said.
“I have seen the bodies of the two civilians carried on a wheelbarrow,” said Bashir Mohamed, another witness.
Police sealed off the area and the attacker escaped, he added. Government and United Nations officials, African Union peacekeeping troops and Ethiopian soldiers have been targeted in a growing number of Iraq-style homemade bomb and suicide attacks, mainly in the seaside capital.
The prime minister escaped a suicide car bomb attack on his Mogadishu compound Sunday that killed six of his security guards.
Gedi, whose interim government is struggling to control the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, blamed the attack on Al Qaeda.
“The terrorists are still hiding in the country, particularly in Mogadishu, to carry out violent actions like this. We will crack down on them and we will no longer give them a chance to hide in the community,” Gedi told journalists at his compound on Monday.
Ethiopian troops helped Somali forces drive out an Islamist movement at the start of the year and in March and April fought heavy battles with Islamist sympathisers and clan fighters on the streets of Mogadishu.