Several suicide bombers in vehicles have attacked the main airport in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, where a high-level international delegation was holding talks with the leaders of the Transitional Federal Government. Officials say the dead include two Ugandan peacekeepers, three civilians and several attackers.
According to an eyewitness who declined to be identified, several loud explosions shocked residents living near Mogadishu's Aden Adde International Airport.
The area is heavily guarded by Ugandan troops serving with the African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia.
The woman says she saw smoke billowing from a car in front of the main gate at the airport after a loud explosion. She says she then heard gunfire and more explosions.
Eyewitnesses say two vehicles, the second carrying several passengers, approached the main gate of the airport after noon. Both cars had reportedly made their way through several government police checkpoints before reaching the gate.
The first car exploded when peacekeepers manning the checkpoint tried to stop it from entering the gate. Then, possibly as many as five gunmen, dressed in government military uniforms and some wearing suicide vests, jumped out of the second car and began firing at the peacekeepers.
Under return fire, at least two of the gunmen broke through the gate and came within 200 meters of the terminal building before being stopped. African Union peacekeepers say the gunmen, then, detonated their vests. The second car was also packed with explosives, but it did not explode.
The explosions and gun battle caused panic inside the airport, where a high-level meeting was taking place between Somali Transitional Federal Government President Sharif Sheik Ahmed and an international delegation led by the U.N. Special Representative for Somalia, Augustine Mahiga. The United Nations says the delegation has been flown safely back to the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.
It is not known if the delegation was the target of the suicide attack. The transitional government had earlier warned that Somalia's al-Qaida-linked militant group, al-Shabab, was likely to stage a spectacular attack to mark the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for a similar suicide attack last month at the Muna Hotel in Mogadishu, which killed more than 30 people including several parliament members. In that attack, two suicide bombers also wore government military uniforms to pass through security.
The extremist group, which controls most of southern Somalia, recently vowed to wage a final massive war against the U.N.-backed government and more than 7,000 African Union peacekeepers from Uganda and Burundi.
Article by Alisha Ryu, VOA News