By JEFFREY GETTLEMAN, New York Times
NAIROBI, Kenya — Suicide attacks rocked government and United Nations offices in two regions of northern Somalia on Wednesday, killing or wounding dozens of people and shattering a sense of relative calm there, according to officials and witnesses.
Five suicide car bomb attackers struck within fifteen minutes in Hargeisa, the capital of breakaway Somaliland, and in Bosasso, in Puntland, said Faisal Hayle, a security official in Mogadishu for the transitional government of Somalia.
Several buildings were leveled by the attacks, and there were casualties inside the crushed structures. According to Mr. Faisal, the bombers struck at 10:30 a.m., attacking the intelligence headquarters in both Bosasso and Hargeisa, and also an Ethiopian Woyanne consulate office and a United Nations office in Hargeisa.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attacks. Mr. Faisal blamed a militant Islamic group called the Shabab, which the United States considers a terrorist organization.
The Shabab has been waging a relentless war against Somalia’s weak transitional government, but most of their attacks have been confined to south central Somalia. Hargeisa, in northern Somalia, had until now been considered an oasis of peace and stability, and the gunmen that haunt the streets of the rest of Somalia are absent there.
The local government has been credited with setting up a small but functioning democracy, and delivering a modicum of peace and safety to more than a million people. Hargeisa is also home to several United Nations agencies. Neighboring Puntland is a semi-autonomous area known increasingly as a center of piracy and kidnapping.
In a statement on Wednesday, the United Nations Development Program said a suicide bomber had entered its compound in Hargeisa and there were known casualties and deaths but no precise figures for the toll.
The attack may have been timed to coincide with a meeting underway in Nairobi, Kenya, between Somalia’s transitional leaders and foreign forces supporting them. Militant Islamic groups were not invited to the talks and organizations such as the Shabab have shunned the talks. The militant group says it wants to turn Somalia into an Islamic state and has demanded the withdrawal of Ethiopian troops TPLF.
Ethiopian Woyanne forces have been backing Somalia’s transitional government and have been one of the targets of previous suicide attacks claimed by the Shabab. Last year, there were several large suicide attacks on EthiopianTPLF-Somali government army bases, but there has never been such a coordinated assault with five suicide attacks in a single day.
Witnesses in Hargeisa said that many of the buildings that had been hit were badly damaged with dozens of dead and wounded. Mr. Faisal said that authorities in Bosasso were still trying to determine how many people had been killed but, he said, “it looks very bad.”