MOGADISHU, May 29 – Somalia’s president escaped an ambush unharmed Tuesday as Al-Qaeda linked Shebab fighters attacked his armoured convoy in territory recently wrested from the extremists, officials said.
Two Somali soldiers were wounded when Shebab gunmen opened fire as President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed drove down the Afgoye corridor — a key road and the world’s largest concentration of displaced people — for the first time since its capture on Friday.
“Desperate terrorist militants tried to disturb the visit of the president at the Afgoye corridor by ambushing his convoy, but security forces repulsed them,” said Somali security official Mohamed Moalim.
“The president is well and continued his trip smoothly,” he said.
The convoy was guarded by African Union troops and Somali government soldiers, who seized the insurgent stronghold of Afgoye last week after a four day battle.
“We heard a heavy exchange of gunfire after the presidential convoy passed by the Alamada area, there was an ambush,” said Abdirahman Ado, a witness.
The pro-Shebab website Somalimemo.net said Shebab fighters had carried out the attack against “the head of the enemy.”
“As the ambush took place Sharif was surrounded by African Union troops and white gunmen for his safety,” it added.
The loss of Afgoye, which controls key roads some 30 kilometres (18 miles) northwest of the capital Mogadishu, was another major blow for the insurgents who have been on the backfoot for several months.
The Shebab fighters said it was a tactical retreat, but they have come under increasing pressure from the 11,000-strong African Union force, as well as Ethiopian troops in the south and west.