By Jason McLure
Aug. 19 (Bloomberg) — Ethiopia denied responsibility for an attack on two civilian minibuses in southern Somalia on Aug. 15 in which at least 40 people died.
Ethiopia’s Foreign Ministry said Islamist fighters from the al-Shabaab militia are to blame for the deaths, according to a statement published on its Web site today. A remote-controlled device planted by the rebels exploded underneath one of the minibuses and killed 11 passengers.
“Soldiers of Somalia’s transitional government and Ethiopia then took a joint countermeasure on the al-Shabaab militants responsible for the bombing and killed five terrorists,” it said. “In the shootout, five civilians were killed. It was the al-Shabaab bombing of the bus that caused the deaths of passengers, not fire from Ethiopian soldiers.”
A local doctor and eyewitnesses said on Aug. 16 the minibus passengers died after Ethiopian soldiers opened fire on the vehicles. The attack occurred in Arbiska, about 30 kilometers (18 miles) south of the capital, Mogadishu.
U.S.-backed Ethiopian soldiers invaded Somalia in December 2006, ousting an Islamist regime that briefly controlled southern and central parts of the country. Ethiopian forces and militias loyal to Somalia’s United Nations-supported transitional federal government have since battled an insurgency by Islamist and clan-based militias.