8 killed by car-bomb near Somalia’s presidential palace
A suicide car bomb killed at least eight people in the capital of Somalia on Saturday at a street junction near the president’s palace, police said, and al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab said it was behind the attack which targeted a convoy going into the palace.
Police spokesperson Abdifatah Aden Hassan told reporters at the scene of the blast the casualties could be higher, since some of the dead and wounded had been taken away by their relatives.
“Al Shabaab is behind the blast. They killed eight people including a soldier and a mother and two children. Al Shabaab massacres civilians,” he said.
Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu, the government spokesperson, said among those killed was Hibaq Abukar, an advisor of women and human rights affairs in Prime Minister Mohammed Hussein Roble’s office.
“She was one of the pillars of PM’s office (for) women affairs,” he said on his Facebook account.
It was not immediately clear if Abukar was in the convoy or if she just happened to be close by when the blast happened.
Al Shabaab confirmed it was behind the attack. The group, which wants to overthrow the government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islamic law, frequently carries out such bombings.
“A Mujahid driving a suicide car bomb targeted a convoy of cars going into the (presidential) palace,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab military operation spokesperson, told Reuters by phone.
A Reuters witness at the scene of the attack reported seeing seven cars and three rickshaws destroyed by the blast, and the whole junction covered in blood.
Al-Shabab, which means The Youth in Arabic, is an extreme Islamist group which has been battling UN-backed government troops for more than a decade.
The jihadists controlled the capital Mogadishu until 2011 when it was pushed out by African Union troops, but it still holds territory in the countryside and launches frequent attacks against government and civilian targets in Mogadishu and elsewhere.
It advocates the strict Saudi-inspired Wahhabi version of Islam, while most Somalis are Sufis. It has imposed a harsh version of Sharia in areas under its control, including stoning to death women accused of adultery and amputating the hands of thieves.
Government officials have blamed the group for some of Somalia’s deadliest terror attacks. Last year analysts at the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project estimated that Al-Shabab had been responsible for the deaths of over 4,000 people since 2010.