HARGEISA (Somalilandpress) — Security forces in Somalia’s northern breakaway enclave of Somaliland said on Saturday they had foiled an attack on a mosque in Hargeisa where the imam had spoken out against militant suicide bombings.
Somaliland prides itself on its relative stability, unlike southern parts of the failed Horn of Africa state, where hardline rebels from the al Shabaab group control large swaths of territory and are battling a weak Western-backed government.
But al Shabaab, which Washington says is al Qaeda’s proxy in Somalia, wants to extend its influence north into Somaliland and neighbouring, semi-autonomous pro-government Puntland.
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Mohamed Saqadi Dubbad, the commander of Somaliland’s security forces, said six rockets and two mortar bombs were recovered from Imam Sheikh Aden Sira’s mosque after a local woman saw a suspected bomber carrying the explosives in a jacket.
“She thought he had stolen what he was carrying and ran to grab him,” Dubbad told reporters. “The man could not free himself, but he threatened the woman, saying: ‘I will blow you up with me if you do not release me,’ so she released him.”
Imam Sira had been critical of suicide bombings carried out by al Shabaab insurgents in southern Somalia, and officials said he had received death threats from the militants.
Al Shabaab hit Somaliland and Puntland with synchronised suicide blasts that killed at least 24 people in October 2008.
A court in Hargeisa has sentenced five men to death in absentia for the bombings, which struck the Ethiopian embassy, the local president’s office and a U.N. building. It said they were on the run in other parts of Somalia.
Somaliland, which has long sought international recognition as sovereign state, declared itself indepedent in 1991.
Source: Reuters, Sat Jan 9, 2010