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Page last updated at 11:53 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Cleric held over Somali car bombs

People rush from the scene of a bombing in Hargeisa
The attacks were a shock to many in Hargeisa after years of peace

A prominent local religious leader has been arrested over multiple suicide attacks in northern Somalia.

At least 29 people were killed on Wednesday in five co-ordinated car-bombings in the autonomous Somaliland and Puntland regions.

Puntland security forces detained the Muslim cleric, Sheikh Mohamed Ismail, in a raid in the capital, Bosasso.

The BBC's Jamal Abdi in Somaliland's capital, Hargeisa, says foreign workers are being evacuated from the city.

The decision was reached after a meeting between international organisations and government officials.

Leads

Most of the casualties were in Hargeisa, where the presidential palace, Ethiopian consulate and UN offices were targeted.

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In Puntland, six intelligence officers were killed in their offices after two suicide attackers struck.

Authorities in Hargeisa are following a couple of leads including the house where the bombs were assembled and the mart where the cars used were purchased, our correspondent says.

The authorities have halted an ongoing voter-registration process while they beef up security around the city.

No-one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the US has said it believes they were carried out by militants linked to al-Qaeda.

These were the first suicide attacks in the two relatively stable regions.

Somaliland has declared independence from war-torn southern Somalia but this has not been internationally recognised.

The region is a US ally in the fight against Islamist militants in Somalia.



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