Somalia offers reward for information on terror plots

Terrorism | Bounty announcement follows a Sunday explosion that killed more than 30 people
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 2/21/17, 10:24 am

Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo promised a $100,000 reward to anyone who can help foil potential terror attacks after more than 30 people died Sunday in a marketplace explosion. 

The bombing is the first major attack in the country since Farmajo’s administration took office earlier this month.

The car bomb went off in the busy Kawo Goday market in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital, on Sunday afternoon. The blast killed dozens of people and left many others with burns and shrapnel wounds.

“We carried 39 dead bodies and there were many others injured,” Dr. Abdikadir Abdirahman, director of the Aamin Ambulance Services, told Reuters. 

Fa’izo Shimbir, a shopper near the market, told The New York Times “the market was full of blood” and said he saw multiple dead bodies on the floor.

No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Islamic extremist group al-Shabaab has staged several attacks across Somalia and its neighboring regions in recent months. Farmajo, who holds dual Somali and U.S. citizenship, condemned the attack and promised a financial reward to anyone who can help prevent future bloodshed.

“My promise to you as president, if you hear me, I will give you $100,000 if you report a car bomb plot before detonation,” he said. 

Somalia’s parliament elected Farmajo as the country’s new president on Feb. 8. He previously served as Somalia’s prime minister for seven months, beginning in November 2010. After visiting victims at Mogadishu’s Medina hospital, Farmajo said he will support the families of those who died in the attack and cover survivors’ medical costs.

At a meeting with African Union leaders held hours before the bombing, the president declared his vision to defeat al-Shabaab within the next two years. The militant group killed 900 civilians in 2016,  Farmajo said. 

Al-Shabaab denounced the new president in an audio message released early Sunday. Sheikh Hassan Yaqub, one of the extremist group’s senior commanders, called Farmajo an apostate and vowed to fight his administration. Yaqub called on Somalis to withhold support for the president, saying he inflicted much harm on Muslims during his tenure as prime minister. 

Ebrahim Deen, a researcher with the Afro-Middle East Center, said al-Shabaab’s audio message is part of the group’s effort to promote its ideology.

“It’s a means of trying to delegitimize the president by saying it wants to protect Muslims,” he said of the terror group. 

Farmajo’s response to al-Shabaab so far has reflected more of a military approach, Deen added. He urged the government to include a political approach that will use negotiations to attain a lasting peace.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

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