Somalia’s Shebab insurgents said they had assassinated a lawmaker in Mogadishu as he left prayers at a mosque on Friday, the fifth MP killed this year in a string of attacks.
“This was a legitimate target, and he was killed on the orders of Allah,” Shebab spokesman Abdiaziz Abu Musab told AFP, adding that the Al-Qaeda-linked insurgents were “preparing to kill all the other MPs”.
Gunmen opened fire from a car in a drive-by shooting in the centre of the city before racing off, witnesses said.
“Sheikh Adan Madeer was shot and killed in central Mogadishu by gunmen, the gunmen then fled,” witness Abdisalan Mohamed told AFP.
Madeer was chairman of the parliamentary finance committee.
“He returned from a mosque near his house… when two gunmen shot him dead. Now we are preparing his burial,” Madeer’s relative Nur Mohamed said.
Shebab fighters fled fixed positions in Mogadishu three years ago and have since lost most large towns to a 22,000-strong UN-backed African Union force, fighting alongside government soldiers.
But they still hold sway in vast swathes of the rural hinterland from which they regularly launch guerrilla raids.
Recent Shebab attacks in Somalia have targeted key areas of government and security forces in an apparent bid to discredit claims by the authorities and AU troops that they are winning the war.
Last month the Shebab launched an assault on the presidential palace using similar tactics deployed in an attack on the same fortified compound in February.
In May, the Islamist insurgents also launched a similar attack against the national parliament.
– Killings amid hunger crisis –
Shebab spokesman Musab said the extremists were targeting MPs as they had “authorised the deployment of foreign troops in Somalia, and were a pillar of the apostate government.”
The Shebab have also increased carried out attacks against regional countries with troops in the AU force, with a series of killings in neighbouring Kenya, following last September’s attack on Nairobi’s Westgate mall in which at least 67 people were killed.
The latest killing comes amid growing warnings of a humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country, three years after more than 250,000 people, half of them children, died in the devastating 2011 famine.
The United Nations has warned Somalia is sliding back into an acute hunger crisis, with over 350,000 people in Mogadishu in need of food aid, with parts of the city facing emergency levels just short of famine.
Recent UN assessments show “above emergency levels of malnutrition” in seven towns, including the major centres of Garowe, Galkayo and Kismayo, as well as Mogadishu.
Somalia’s internationally-backed government, selected in 2012, was widely hailed as offering the best chance in decades to repair the war-ravaged country.
But continued Shebab attacks even in the most fortified areas of the capital, as well as the humanitarian hunger crisis and accusations of corruption, have cast a pall over the government’s record.