Somali president escapes Shebab ambush unscathed
MOGADISHU - Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud escaped unhurt Tuesday from an attack on his convoy claimed by Al-Qaeda linked Islamists, state radio said.
Diplomatic sources who had spoken to the presidential entourage also confirmed Mohamud and the rest of his team had reached the port of Merka safely after the ambush.
Somalia's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents claimed to have destroyed vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades during the ambush.
"We ambushed a convoy that was escorting the self-appointed Somali president," Shebab spokesman Abdulaziz Abu Musab said.
The ambush took place near the small settlement of Buffow, close to the port of Merka, a former Shebab stronghold captured one year ago around 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of the capital.
"We were tracking his (Mohamud's) movements...the fighting is still going on," Musab said.
There were no immediate reports of any casualties or confirmation from Somalia's government.
Outside the capital Mogadishu, Mohamud usually travels in an armoured convoy under the protection of the 17,700-strong African Union force that fights alongside the Somali army.
Shebab fighters in May 2012 ambushed the convoy of Mohamud's predecessor, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, but the president escaped unharmed.
Somalia's weak central government, selected in a UN-backed process in August 2012, has made steps forward in Mogadishu but has little influence outside the capital.
The new government was the first to be given global recognition since the collapse of Somalia's hardline regime in 1991.
But the authorities have been dealt a number of setbacks in recent months, including a string of Shebab attacks, accusations of rape against the army and AU soldiers and a pull-out by aid workers because of a wave of kidnappings and killings.