(MOGADISHU, Somalia) — As more than 600 delegates met in Mogadishu to approve Somalia’s new constitution, marking a symbolic break with the country’s turbulent past, two al Qaeda-linked suicide bombers tried to attack the gathering only to be killed by security guards.
Two men pretending to be delegates and wearing explosive vests tried to pass a security checkpoint outside the assembly at a police building in the HamarJajab section of the capital city.
According to the news website Somalia Report, the men were shot to death by security forces. Several government soldiers were wounded, but no members of the National Consitutent Assembly, which included legislators and tribal elders, were initially listed among those injured.
Witnesses told Somalia Report that they had seen the bodies of the suicide attackers, and that wounded soldiers had been evacuated to the hospital.
Al Shabaab, the Somali affiliate of al Qaeda, took credit for the attack. Via Twitter, al Shabaab said “twin martyrdom operations” had been carried out by its “Martyrdom Brigade” and that members of the assembly would be “tracked & executed…one by one” if they tried to implement the new constitution. The terror group had vowed to attack the National Constituent Assembly, which has been meeting in Mogadishu for the past week.
According to state radio, a regional Somali intelligence chief showed members of the assembly an identity card said to have been carried by one of the attackers, and said they were tracing the attackers.
The delegates passed the constitution in a landslide, with 96 percent of the 645 delegates in attendance voting in favor. The document, which was drawn up after a lengthy debate, will serve as an interim constitution for five years and replaces an earlier charter that lasted eight years.
Notably, it legalizes abortion when a mother’s life is in danger and bans female circumcision.
Somalia will next select members of a new parliament, which will pick a speaker prior to the inauguration of a new president.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Michael Pearson, CNN Newswire
Georgia McCafferty and Junko Ogura, CNN