Seven Finnish citizens had a narrow escape, as they only just avoided a suicide attack in Somaliland last week.
The attack had been scheduled to target a peace conference in Hargeisa but was thwarted by security officials. The peace conference had been organised by the Finnish Lutheran Church’s foreign aid arm Finn Church.
Helsingin Sanomat revealed that two uninvited guests were searched and found to be in possession of 10 kilos of explosives in powdered form. It is believed that the explosives were to be used in a suicide attack on chiefs from the local Hawie clan who attended the meeting. Such an attack placed the seven Finnish citizens at the meeting in high danger.
In the lead up to the conference, some 30 clan leaders flew to Hargeisa from the Somali capital Mogadishu. Although the leaders travelled by a commercial flight, the two young men who accompanied them were noticed, and also while they travelled on the same bus to the leaders’ hotel. Meeting organisers and hotel security made note of the behaviour of the pair, who allegedly showed signs of nervousness.
“Their room was searched, and explosives suitable for use in a suicide attack were found in their possession,” said the Finn Church Aid executive director Antti Pentikoinen.
Organisers had considered cancelling the conference after the discovery of the threat but it proceeded as planned without further incident. “Security arrangements are at the maximum. The meeting will proceed only if security can be guaranteed,” said Pentikoinen. “In Somalia, we are trusted as organisers of meetings of this type. Under no circumstances do we plan to pull out. When we have collected all information about this event, we will ponder how the risks could be minimised in the future.”