Skip to main content

Somali president defies Al-Shabaab by venturing into Mogadishu

From Nima Elbagir, CNN
May 13, 2013 -- Updated 1132 GMT (1932 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Somali president attended a hotel opening in Mogadishu's militant occupied outskirts
  • He was targeted by al-Qaeda-linked group al-Shabaab on his second day in office
  • The president tells CNN that al-Shabaab "no longer call the shots in Mogadishu"

Editor's note: CNN correspondent Nima Elbagir, has been reporting on Somalia since 2006. Last week she was given a rare interview with the president and rode with his security convoy as he visited a militant stronghold on the outskirts of the capital, Mogadishu, in defiance of the continuing threats on his life.

Mogadishu (CNN) -- A female soldier roughly passes her hands over the waistband of my jeans as a finishing touch to the most intimate pat down I've ever received. But we're not done yet, a metal detector is then passed in unusually close contact with my skin. Up down, over and around.

And that's just to get through the first gate.

At the second entrance, a Somali close protection officer bars the way and Special Forces officers crowd around as our camera is switched off and on to prove it is indeed a camera.

Even though we had traveled in with African Union soldiers tasked with escorting the President, suspicions still had to be assuaged.

In the boat patrolling for pirates

And if all this seems extreme, it isn't.

On his second day in office, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud was targeted by the al-Qaeda linked militant group al-Shabaab, and even on this day, as we drive through town, we pass the still-smoking wreckage of the Somali Minister of Interior's convoy. A car filled with explosives drove into his flag car, detonating on impact.

The president tells me he is aware that these trips he makes cause consternation among his advisers, but he has absolutely no intention of stopping
Nima Elbagir

Fortunately for the Minister he wasn't in the car at the time. Eight civilians, though, were killed on the street.

Read more: Suicide bomber targets Qatari delegation in Somalia, 8 dead

And yet, Mahmud insisted on keeping this appointment at an opening of a hotel in Deynile, on the outskirts of Mogadishu where Al-Shabaab still have a presence.

If he's worried he didn't look it, smiling from behind his wrap-around shades as women dressed in the Somali flag sing traditional songs of welcome.

Eventually he is brought to us around the back of the courtyard for our scheduled interview -- but not before the perimeter is repeatedly swept.

Read more: Dozens dead in Somali courthouse attack

In an open-air space like this, though, there is only so much his men can do. Especially when his enemies are willing to die for the cause.

The president tells me he is aware that these trips he makes cause consternation among his advisers, but he has absolutely no intention of stopping. He says they send the most powerful message of all -- that al-Shabaab no longer call the shots in Mogadishu.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1427 GMT (2227 HKT)
Hamas' tactics have changed -- now the group is using commando-like tactics, says CNN's Ben Wedeman.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
CNN's Richard Quest speaks to Malaysia Airlines' Hugh Dunleavy about how the airline industry needs to react to MH17.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 0937 GMT (1737 HKT)
From Maastricht to Melbourne, and baroque theaters to block-long warehouses, these stores make bookish travelers look stylish.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1540 GMT (2340 HKT)
Some contend that larger weapons have come into Ukraine from Russia.
July 24, 2014 -- Updated 0144 GMT (0944 HKT)
A California homeowner's nightmare has become a cautionary tale for those who rent their homes to strangers.
July 23, 2014 -- Updated 1857 GMT (0257 HKT)
A nun, an AIDS researcher, an athlete and a family traveling on summer vacation. These were some of the victims aboard MH17.
July 22, 2014 -- Updated 0021 GMT (0821 HKT)
Prince George isn't your average one year old. He started walking before he was one. Oh, and, he's going to be king -- of 16 countries.
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1136 GMT (1936 HKT)
Former President Bill Clinton acknowledges he got "very close" to helping achieve peace in the Middle East.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0621 GMT (1421 HKT)
In an ambitious plan to upgrade urban India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he will build 100 "smart cities" across the country.
July 20, 2014 -- Updated 1127 GMT (1927 HKT)
Inspirational, creepy or just weird? CNN meets the 51-year-old man who dresses like a schoolgirl.
CNN joins the fight to end modern-day slavery by shining a spotlight on its horrors and highlighting success stories.
Browse through images from CNN teams around the world that you don't always see on news reports.
ADVERTISEMENT