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Somalia endorses constitution after failed suicide attack

Somalia's constituent assembly has adopted a draft constitution paving the way for the formation of a new government. The vote came shortly after two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the meeting site.

Somali leaders overwhelmingly endorsed the draft constitution on Wednesday by a landslide 96 percent. Some 625 members approved the document, 13 were against it and there were 11 abstentions.

The special assembly took eight days to debate the document, which was some eight years in the making.

"We are very happy today that you... responsibly completed the procedure by voting for the constitution," Prime Minister Abdiweli Mohamed Ali told the 825-strong assembly.

"I announce that Somalia has from today left the transitional period."

A political milestone

The vote paves the way for a new more representative government in Somalia after some eight years under a transitional regime. The Transitional Federal Government's UN-backed mandate is due to expire on August 20. Somalia has been without a stable central government for nearly twenty years since former president Siad Barre was killed in 1991.

Just two hours ahead of the vote, two suicide bombers blew themselves up outside the gates of the Mogadishu meeting. Security forces reportedly shot the bombers as they attempted to detonate their explosives. The two bombers were killed and one Somali soldier was injured.

"Security forces stopped their ambitions of attacking...they were shot and then they detonated their vests," Interior Minister Abisamad Moalim told reporters.

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. It is the latest in a string of explosions, including roadside bombs and grenades, which have hit the Somali capital. However, the al Qaeda linked group al-Shabaab has vowed to topple government, and has claimed responsibility for previous similar such attacks.

ccp/sej(AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)