Somalia Blasts Kill 11 in Presidential Assassination Attempt

A car bomb exploded in the seat of Somalia's virtually powerless government Monday, killing 11 people, including the president's brother, in an apparent assassination attempt, officials said.

President Abdullahi Yusuf escaped unharmed, government spokesman Abdirahman Dinari said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack in Baidoa, the only town controlled by the government. But if it is linked to an Islamic militia that has seized control of much of southern Somalia, it could cause peace talks between the two sides to fall apart.

The bomb exploded outside a parliament building where Yusuf had been giving a speech about 10 minutes earlier, said Mohamed Adawe, a journalist who witnessed the blast.

Somali Foreign Minister Ismail Mohamed Hurre said in Nairobi, Kenya, that 11 people were killed.

"This explosion was intended to kill the president, but he escaped and he is safe," Dinari said. Eight cars were burned in the blast, including three from Yusuf's convoy.

Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then turned on one another, pulling the country into anarchy.

The current government was established two years ago with the support of the United Nations, but it has failed to assert any power outside its base in Baidoa.

An Islamic militia seized control of Mogadishu in recent months and has extended its control over much of southern Somalia, in direct challenge to the government.

The militia has imposed strict religious rule in the areas under its sway, and its Islamic courts are credited with bringing a semblance of order. Many in the West, however, fear a Taliban-style regime could emerge.