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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 September 2006, 09:17 GMT 10:17 UK
Somali president describes attack
Abdullahi Yusuf, Somalia's interim president (archive image)
As a former warlord, President Yusuf has many enemies
Somalia's interim President Abdullahi Yusuf has described how he narrowly escaped an assassination attempt by a suicide bomber.

President Yusuf told the BBC the bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a presidential convoy in the central town of Baidoa.

Mr Yusuf said he escaped his burning car, but added that his brother and three bodyguards were killed.

Six attackers died in an ensuing gun battle, the foreign minister said.

The president had addressed a meeting of the country's transitional parliament only minutes before the attack, which left 18 people wounded. One of those killed was a Ugandan security officer.

Correspondents say the audacious attack is a reminder of how weak the interim government is.

They say the violence is also bound to further heighten tensions in war-torn Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government for 15 years.

Blame

It is not clear who carried out the attack.

A government spokesman has appealed for help with the investigation and suggested al-Qaeda could be behind it.

The suicide car hit the first car in the convoy and exploded
Abdullahi Yusuf

"We really do not have the expertise to uncover the whole attack that was well organised by the same groups that are carrying out attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan," government spokesman Abdirahman Mohamed Nur Dinari told AFP news agency.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Ismail Mohammed Hurre said from Nairobi that they did not want to blame any group at this stage but said the perpetrators were clearly opposed to the peace process.

The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC), the Islamist alliance which controls much of the south of the country, including the capital, Mogadishu, has condemned it.

The group's chairman, Sharif Shaikh Ahmed, blamed Ethiopia which backs President Yusuf, saying it wanted a pretext to send troops into Somalia.

The interim government controls only Baidoa and a small area around it.

Ten days ago, Mohamed Ibrahim Habsade, the warlord who controls Baidoa, told the BBC that militiamen would eject government members by force if they did not withdraw from Baidoa peacefully.

Peacekeepers

"The attack was a suicide car bomb against me," President Yusuf told the BBC Somali service.

President Yusuf's burnt-out car
President Yusuf's car was left to burn - there are no fire fighters in Baidoa
"The suicide car hit the first car in the convoy and exploded."

There are no fire fighters in Baidoa and so the cars were left to burn out after the attack.

The attack came as MPs started a key session to approve the new cabinet.

Despite the blast, the MPs went ahead with their meeting in a converted warehouse which serves as the parliament and approved the new government line-up.

President Yusuf wants foreign peacekeepers sent to Somalia - a suggestion strongly rejected by the Islamists, who say they can take care of security.

Uganda is one of the countries to have volunteered troops.


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