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Last Updated: Monday, 18 September 2006, 15:16 GMT 16:16 UK
Somali leader survives bomb blast
Burning cars outside Somalia's parliament
The president's convoy had just left when the explosions went off
At least 11 people have died in an apparent bid to assassinate Somalia's interim president outside parliament in the town of Baidoa, say officials.

A suspected car bomb went off soon after a convoy left carrying President Abdullahi Yusuf. The leader is said to be unharmed but his brother was killed.

A second blast went off near the first, setting at least five cars ablaze.

Mr Yusuf has strained relations with an Islamist group which controls much of southern Somalia.

I saw a white car explode... There were screams everywhere
Eyewitness Sahad Mohamed Abukar

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

The Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) deny US accusations that they are linked to al-Qaeda.

The blasts came as MPs started a key session to approve the new cabinet and whether the government should share power with the UIC.

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

Correspondents say the blasts are bound to further heighten tension in war-torn Somalia, which has not had a functioning national government for 15 years.

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.

Pool of blood

"I saw a white car explode in front of the parliament, demolishing seven other cars nearby," witness Sahad Mohamed Abukar told AFP news agency.

"There were screams everywhere."


Somali Foreign Minister Ismail Hurre said the attack had been an assassination attempt on the president.

"Five people were killed from the presidential convoy and three wounded," the minister told reporters in the Kenyan capital.

"Six attackers were also killed and two captured."

He said he did not want to speculate on who was behind the attacks but said whoever was responsible wanted peace talks with the UIC set for 30 September to fail.

Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Ghedi told the BBC that President Yusuf was alive and well.

Local journalist Mohamed Adawe said the blast came 10 minutes after the president had delivered a speech.

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

Meanwhile, a group of Italian Catholic nuns are being evacuated from the capital, Mogadishu, after one of their elderly colleagues was shot dead on Sunday by gunmen; the UIC condemned the killing.

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