U.S. congressman fired on in Somalia

U.S. CONGRESSMAN FIRED ON IN SOMALIA…. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) flew into Mogadishu, Somalia, today, as part of a new international effort to explore responses to the growing problem of piracy off the country’s coast. It was the first visit of U.S. politician to Somalia in several years.

It wasn’t long before there was a life-threatening situation.

A plane carrying Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) out of Mogadishu, Somalia, on Monday came under mortar fire from insurgents.

The congressman, who sits on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and is chairman of the Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health, was uninjured and his plane flew out to Nairobi, Kenya, spokeswoman Kerry McKenney told Fox News on Monday morning.

McKenney said Payne was not traveling with any other members and was accompanied by six bodyguards in Somalia.

As crazy as this may sound, “rampant” mortar fire is apparently rather common in Somalia, so there was some question at first as to whether this mortar fire was an attempt on Payne’s life, or part of the routine shelling common in the country. An African Union official sought to clarify matters, telling Agence France Presse that “the attack was aimed at the congressman.”

Given that Somalia barely exists as a nation-state, we expect to hear more stories like this.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.