MOGADISHU, (Reuters) – A suicide bomber who killed 22 people including three government ministers in Mogadishu last week disguised as a veiled woman was a 26-year-old Danish citizen of Somali descent, Somalia’s parliament speaker said.
Western security agencies say young Somalis abroad are abandoning the relative safety and comfort of their homes in the West to join the ranks of Somalia’s insurgents groups.
“It is unfortunate that a child whose parents escaped Somalia’s conflict and raised him in Europe came home with extremist ideologies and blew himself and innocent people up,” Sheikh Aden Mohamed Madobe told reporters late on Thursday.
Western nations and Somalia’s neighbours say the failed Horn of Africa state has become a safe haven for militants — including foreign jihadists — who are using it to plot attacks across the impoverished region and beyond.
Last Thursday’s blast was blamed on hardline al Shabaab rebels who are battling the Western-backed government to impose their harsh interpretation of Islamic law across the country.
Washington accuses al Shabaab of being al Qaeda’s proxy in the nation. Somalia has lacked a functioning central government since 1991, and the U.N.-backed administration of President Sheikh Sharif Ahmed controls just a few sites in the capital.
The father of the Danish man said to be the suicide bomber was quoted as denying that his son, Abdulrahman Ahmed Haji, had carried out the attack, saying he had been a guest at the ceremony. “My son was invited to the graduation ceremony by his friend and apparently both of them died. Since no one recognised him, they assumed he was the suicide bomber,” Hassan Haji told Voice of America (VOA) radio’s Somali service from Denmark. “My son used to contact me regularly. He and his pregnant wife were staying in Merka,” he said, referring to a town 110 km (68 miles) south of the capital.
Last week’s attack was the worst in the lawless country since June, when al Shabaab insurgents killed the security minister and at least 30 other people in a suicide bombing at a hotel in the town of Baladwayne.
Fighting has killed at least 19,000 Somali civilians since the start of 2007 and driven 1.5 million from their homes, triggering one of the world’s worst humanitarian disasters.