Somali police launch major security operation
MOGADISHU - Somalia's police force launched a major security operation Monday searching for explosives and weapons, a day after a spectacular suicide attack by Islamist insurgents in the city.
"There is a major security operation under way in Mogadishu," said senior police official Mohamed Hassan. "So far more than 400 people have been detained, the operations are aimed at tackling insecurity."
On Sunday, a nine-man suicide commando blasted its way into Mogadishu's main court complex, some blowing up their explosive vests while others sprayed gunfire in a rampage that left 29 civilians dead, while a separate bomb attack killed five more.
The Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militant group claimed responsibility for the courthouse attack.
"All vehicles moving in town are subject to security screening while the passengers are being temporarily detained for questioning," Hassan added.
Security forces set up road blocks across the city.
"The soldiers are stopping all vehicles and arresting people," said Ali Ismail, a witness.
"I saw nearly 300 people who were detained and blindfolded near the industrial road. Everyone the security forces set eyes on today is getting arrested," said Yusuf Ganey, another witness.
"This is not a normal operation," he said.
The Shebab Islamists used to control most of the seaside capital until they abandoned fixed positions in August 2011. But the extremist group has since carried out a string of attacks against the UN-backed government.
A regional military offensive has forced many Shebab fighters to pull out of a string of key towns, but the insurgents have reverted to guerrilla tactics and have carried out several bomb attacks in Mogadishu.
But the scale and audacity of this latest attack -- striking in the heart of the heavily-guarded administrative quarter of the capital -- still shocked many.
"None one thought the Shebab could still strike at the heart of government but it happened and it was a really horrible attack, it is really very difficult to fight someone who does not fear the pain of death," said Muktar Isa, a resident.
The area round the courthouse remained cordonned off Monday with security forces still surrounding the area.