At least 17 people were killed and 28 others injured when a car bomb exploded in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu on Monday, July 22, a security officer and witnesses said.
The explosion at the first checkpoint on the road to Mogadishu airport near the Afrik Hotel reverberated throughout the city, and sent a massive plume of black smoke into the air.
The al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabaab insurgent group claimed responsibility, saying that it was a suicide bomb.
“The martyrdom operation was carried out using a vehicle loaded with explosives which targeted a checkpoint along the airport road,” the group said in a brief statement.
Deputy Police Commissioner Zakia Hussein said on Twitter that security forces intercepted a Toyota Noah vehicle that then exploded, Goobjoog News reported.
“The bodies of 17 people killed in the blast were taken to the hospital mortuary while 28 others were admitted for various wounds,” said Mohamed Yusuf, the director of Medina Hospital, Mogadishu’s main trauma facility.
Abdullahi Ahmed, a security officer who witnessed the blast, said at least two government security officers at the checkpoint were killed in the attack.
“The area was relatively dense with bystanders and some were killed and wounded in the blast, but we don’t have the exact number of casualties,” he told AFP.
Other witnesses describing being knocked to the ground by the force of the blast, which damaged nearby buildings.
“I was not very far away from where the blast occurred, and I could see several people lying [on the ground], some of them dead with a pool of blood,” said one, Abdikarim Mohamed.
“The blast was huge. It did damage to several nearby buildings.”
Suado Ali was walking out of a travel agency when the shockwave knocked her flat.
“I was forced to the ground by the shockwave. I saw nearly 10 people lying on the ground, some motionless and others screaming for help”, he told AFP.
The bombing comes just over a week after 26 people were killed and 56 injured in a complex 12-hour bomb and gun attack carried out by Al-Shabaab insurgents at a a hotel in Kismayo, a port city in southern Somalia .
Al-Shabaab fighters have fought for more than a decade to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia, attacks have also carried out in neighboring Kenya, which has deployed troops to AMISOM, the 22,000-strong African Union Mission in Somalia.
In 2010, al-Shabaab pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda. The following year the group was pushed out of Somalia’s capital Mogadishu by AMISOM, and in 2012 it was driven out of Kismayo.
The group has lost many strongholds, but still controls vast rural areas and remain the key threat to peace in Somalia.
With reporting from AFP