The al-Qaeda-linked Islamist militia known as al-Shabaab have claimed responsibility for mortar attacks that were aimed at a plane carrying U.S Congress man, Mr. Donald Payne as he left Mogadishu airport, Monday. Three people were wounded when one of the mortars, intended for Mr. Payne’s plane, hit a nearby residential neighborhood.
Sheikh Husein Ali Fidow, a spokesman for the group was quoted as saying: “We carried out mortar attacks against the enemy of Allah who arrived to spread democracy in Somalia. This government is welcoming America, which is our prime enemy and we will never stop attacking them.” The radical Islamist guerrillas have sworn to topple the fragile transitional government in Somalia and oppose American democracy and influence in the country. Somalia has not had a functioning national government since warlords overthrew President Siad Barre in 1991 before turning on each other for more power.
As the plane carrying Mr Payne was about to take off, the insurgents began to fire mortars towards his plane but Airport officials confirmed that none of the Mortars hit the plane.
Mr Payne had just met with interim President Mr. Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed and Prime Minister Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, among other Somali officials in the capital, Mogadishu. “We realize that the government cannot do things overnight. It’s going to take patience and time for the government to be able to start to provide services to its people. But the government will have a responsibility of proving that it’s in the process of benefiting people,” Mr. Payne was quoted as saying to the Somali government before his departure.
Hot on the discussion board before his departure was Sunday’s hostage drama in the Indian Ocean, which saw US naval forces shot dead three Somali pirates who had been holding an American ship captain for five days. Peace and reconciliation in Somalia and possible co-operation between Washington and Mogadishu was also discussed.
US foreign policy on Somalia has been overshadowed by the killing of 18 US soldiers in Mogadishu in 1993, but the Obama administration is reported to be ready to work with and assist the Horn of Africa nation. “We discussed the progress the Somali government has made so far and the need for co-operation between the two countries. Our meeting ended in mutual understanding,” said Omar Abdirashid Ali Sharmarke, Prime Minister of Somalia.