Somali rebels threaten more attacks after bombing

MOGADISHU – Somalia's Shebab on Wednesday vowed more attacks after a massive car bombing killed more than 70 people in Mogadishu in the deadliest single strike by the rebels in the country.

"We are promising that attacks against the enemy will be routine, more in number and will increase day by day," spokesman Ali Mohamud Rage said in speech broadcast Wednesday by the group's radio Al-Andalus.

A suicide bomber on Tuesday detonated an explosives-laden truck at a government compound in Mogadishu, unleashing a powerful blast that mowed down dozens and wounded more than 100 others.

Witnesses said the devastation was the worst they had ever seen since Somalia plunged into a civil war two decades ago. The Shebab launched a bloody uprising in 2007 against the Western-backed transitional government.

It was also the first attack since the insurgents pulled out of Mogadishu in August in a move they said was a change of military tactics.

"The attack was a hit to the mercenaries serving the interests of non-believers who thought that they have captured Mogadishu as well as for those who assume the Shebab had left the capital," Rage said.

"The attack proved that we are still in Mogadishu and very much at K4," said Rage, referring to the area of Mogadishu hit by the suicide bomber.

Rage identified the attacker as Mogadishu-born Bashar Abdulahy Nur.

"The enemies killed by Nur will go to hell," he said. "Those who want to occupy our country will be killed or wounded."

Several world leaders condemned the bombing, with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton slamming the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Shebab's "complete disregard for human life and Somalia's future."

"It is incomprehensible that innocents are being senselessly targeted," United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon was quoted as saying by spokesman Martin Nesirky.

Continental powerhouse South Africa said: "Such acts only lead to the deterioration of the situation in the war-torn region and render the people of Somalia more vulnerable to human and natural disasters."

Analysts said the bombing proved the insurgents' military strength even after abandoning their bases in Mogadishu where they waged relentless attacks against the government and African Union troops backing it.

"Shebab's tactical withdrawal from most of Mogadishu was in part designed to allow it to fight on its terms, using terrorist attacks and asymmetrical urban guerilla war tactics," said Ken Menkhaus, associate professor of Political Science at Davidson College.

The bulk of the Shebab fighters retreated to southern and central Somalia regions they already control.

J. Peter Pham of the Atlantic Council thinktank said the attack was a "wake-up call for both Somalis and the international community.

"While al-Shebab has clearly been weakened in recent months by dwindling financial resources, internal discord, and a loss of political legitimacy – to say nothing of the elimination of key leaders – its demise is by no means inevitable," added Pham.

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