MOGADISHU, Somalia – Ethiopian troops fired at a would-be homicide bomber Monday who was speeding toward their base, blowing up the car and killing the bomber and a civilian who was standing nearby, officials said.
"This was a terrorist act," Deputy Defense Minister Salad Ali Jelle said.
The attack came one day after a homicide car bomber drove through a roadblock guarding the prime minister's home and rammed the vehicle into a wall, killing seven people. The prime minister was unharmed.
Germany, which holds the EU presidency, issued a statement Monday condemning the attack on the prime minister "as an assault on the whole peace and reconciliation process in Somalia" and saying a Somali working for the European Commission was among those killed.
The EU presidency "`offers profound condolences to all those who have lost loved ones and wishes a speedy recovery to those who have been injured," the statement added.
The violence in Mogadishu has undermined the government's claims to have defeated Islamic insurgents who have vowed to launch an Iraq-style guerrilla war unless Somalia becomes an Islamic state. The battles have pitted the government and Ethiopian troops propping it up against clan rivals and Islamic insurgents.
Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said Monday that the attack targeting him over the weekend was meant to disrupt a peace and reconciliation conference planned for later this month.
"The whole objective of the insurgents or the terrorists is to stop or delay the national reconciliation conference. We will not do it. We will continue," Gedi said outside his home, which was damaged in Sunday's blast. "We will try to pacify the capital city before the conference."
Jelle has blamed the attack on "terrorists linked to Al Qaeda."
Sunday's attack was at least the third attempt on Gedi's life since he returned to Somalia in May 2005. No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
The government's planned nationwide reconciliation conference has already been delayed several times because of violence.
On Friday, Somali forces and shelling from a U.S. warship reportedly killed eight foreign Islamic militants in a remote, mountainous northeastern area of the country.
Officials of the semiautonomous region of Puntland said that the foreign fighters killed in Friday's fighting included some from the United States, Britain, Sweden, Pakistan and Yemen. Somali fighters were also killed in the mountainous northeastern area of Bargal, but officials did not specify how many.
Meanwhile, Somali pirates who hijacked a Taiwan-flagged fishing vessel in mid-May off this country's lawless coast killed one of the 16 crew members because the ship's owners have not paid a ransom, a maritime official said Monday.
The pirates threatened to kill other crew members if their demands are not met, said Andrew Mwangura, head of the Kenyan chapter of the Seafarers Assistance Program.
He cited a relative of one of the captives, who was allowed to call his family.
"The gunmen have established contact with the owner of the ship but it appears that he was giving them empty promises," Mwangura said.
The ship — Ching Fong Hwa 168 — had two Taiwanese and 12 Chinese crew members on board when it was hijacked 220 kilometers (137 miles) northeast of the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Mwangura did not know the nationality of the victim.
Somalia does not have a coast guard or navy after more than a decade of anarchy. The current government was formed in 2004 but has struggled to assert any real control throughout the country.
Somali pirates are trained fighters, often dressed in military fatigues, using speedboats equipped with satellite phones and Global Positioning System equipment. They are typically armed with automatic weapons, anti-tank rocket launchers and various types of grenades, according to the U.N. Monitoring Group on Somalia.
Although piracy is rampant off Somalia's lawless coast, killing crew members is relatively rare, Mwangura said. He said pirates have killed four crew members in the past 10 years.
"Normally they don't kill crew members if they cooperate," he said.
Since February, pirates have hijacked 10 ships — five have been released and five are still being held, according to the Seafarers Assistance Program.