MOGADISHU (Reuters) â€” A large blast wounded at least two children in Mogadishu on Monday near where a national reconciliation conference â€” twice delayed over insecurity â€” is due to be held next month, witnesses said.In the latest in a string of apparent insurgent attacks against the interim government, an unknown attacker detonated a landmine by remote control as government vehicles passed, Mogadishu’s deputy mayor in charge of security said.
“It was targeting Somali government officials and troops who normally use the road. It missed its intended target, wounding two children who were close by during the blast,” Abdifatah Ibrahim Omar told Reuters.
Omar said he arrested five suspects, and denied earlier witness reports that two policemen had been wounded.
Witness Abdullahi Yere, who was standing outside his nearby house, said there were many government troops in the area when the explosion ripped through an intersection.
“I heard a loud explosion that shook the whole ground near me. I saw a burning car thrown high in the sky by the intensity of the explosion,” Yere told Reuters.
Insurgents from a defeated Islamist movement routinely attack government soldiers and their Ethiopian allies, and have increasingly used Iraq-style tactics including assassinations, suicide bombings and roadside blasts.
The reconciliation conference, which many diplomats say is the interim government’s best chance to boost its legitimacy and quell the violence, was due to be held last week. But the government postponed it for a second time, blaming “unforeseen circumstances”. The conference organiser said some clans had asked for more time to choose delegates and that the venue was still being refurbished.
The blast was an insurgent move to “edge closer to the venue of the reconciliation conference”, a security source who spoke on condition of anonymity said.
“This is a message they are trying to convey to the government, warning the government against the proposed reconciliation meeting,” he said.
Security experts and diplomats say poor security in Mogadishu and the threat of insurgent attacks targeting the conference necessitated its delay to July 18.
Mogadishu is one of the world’s most heavily armed and dangerous cities as capital of a nation that became a byword for anarchy after the fall of Mohammad Siad Barre in 1991.
This government is the 14th attempt at asserting central rule in the Horn of Africa nation since then.