Somalia’s Al-Shabaab militants on Monday shot dead the Maltese manager of a port, while detonating a car bomb in the capital which killed nine people and wounded several others.
In a deadly day for the restive nation, a gunman shot Maltese national Paul Anthony Formosa, manager of the port of Bossasso in semi-autonomous Puntland state for P&O Ports, a subsidiary of the Dubai-based DP World.
Shortly thereafter a powerful explosion from a car bomb rocked the busy Hamarweyne market in the capital Mogadishu, killing nine people in the latest attack from the Al-Qaeda affiliate plaguing the country.
“An armed man shot and killed Paul Anthony Formosa who was the construction project manager for DP World. He was killed inside the port and the security forces also shot the killer on the spot”, local security official, Mohamed Dahir, told AFP.
The Dubai government confirmed the death in a statement on Twitter and said the circumstances of the incident was being investigated.
“Three other employees have been injured in this morning’s incident, and all are currently receiving medical treatment,” read the statement.
The attack was claimed by Al-Shabaab, which said in a statement it was “part of broader operations targeting the mercenary companies that loot the Somali resources.”
The DP World subsidiary in 2017 signed a 30-year concession contract for the management and development of the port, strategically located on the Gulf of Aden, between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, more than 1 300km north of Mogadishu.
The Dubai-based ports company has sparked friction with Mogadishu over its development of ports in Berbera in breakaway Somaliland – whose independence is not recognised – as well as Puntland.
Many of Somalia’s federal states have aligned with the United Arab Emirates, while the central government is perceived as pro-Qatar, in the Gulf crisis pitting Arab powers against each other.
Shabaab also claimed responsibility for the car bomb in Mogadishu, via a statement on a pro-Shabaab website.
“The blast occurred close to Mogadishu mall and it has caused death and destruction. Nine civilians were confirmed dead and several others are wounded,” police officer Ahmed Moalin Ali said.
“The terrorists parked a vehicle loaded with explosives in the vicinity of the mall to kill the innocent civilians.”
He said some of the victims died in a building that collapsed as a result of the blast in the Hamarweyne market.
“I saw the dead bodies of four people recovered from the debris of a collapsed building and three others were strewn dead outside after the blast had blown them,” said shopper Munira Abdukadir.
“I was not far away from the blast location, but I was lucky to have survived, several people were wounded and some were screaming before the ambulances arrived,” said another witness, Abdulahi Mohamed.
Somalia has not had an effective central government since the 1991 overthrow of president Siad Barre’s military regime which ushered in decades of chaos – including an insurrection by the Shabaab since 2006.
The group once held sway over large swathes of countryside and the capital, however they were chased out of Mogadishu by the 22 000-strong African Union peace-enforcement mission, AMISOM in 2011, and have since abandoned many strongholds.
They nevertheless control vast rural areas and remain a key threat to peace in Somalia and the region, with the capacity to stage significant attacks.
In October 2017, a truck bombing in a busy neighbourhood of Mogadishu killed over 500 people in the deadliest attack in Somalia to date.
On January 15, Shabaab gunmen and the first-ever suicide bomber in Kenya attacked the Dusit hotel and office complex in Nairobi, leaving 21 dead and prompting police and the US Embassy to urge caution in public spaces.