At least eight people have been killed and 17 injured in a suicide car bombing targeting a security convoy near a school in the Somali capital Mogadishu.
“A deafening, massive explosion sent plumes of smoke into the sky, shook us and forced us to run behind walls,” said an eyewitness who spoke to the Granthshala’s Somali service on condition of anonymity. “I came out and saw the bodies of at least 8 people and more than 10 other injured.”
Mogadishu police spokesman Abdifatah Aden Hassan said a suicide bomber targeted the security convoy.
“A suicide bomber driving an explosives-laden SUV rammed into a convoy guarding the United Nations and exploded. The police counted the bodies of eight people, and 17 others were injured,” Hassan told reporters.
It was not immediately clear whether any UN personnel or foreign nationals were among those killed or injured in the blast, and UN officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
The blast occurred on a road between Mogadishu’s busy strategic KM4 junction and the Tarabukka area of the capital’s Hodan district.
According to several eyewitnesses, the explosion destroyed small businesses, a restaurant and part of the nearby Mukasar Primary and Secondary School.
“The blast took place when more than a thousand students were in the classes. Seventeen people injured in school… [including] 13 students, one teacher and three school drivers,” Yusuf Hussein Abdi, one of the school administrators, told Granthshala Somali.
“After the blast, shots were fired all around the site, causing panic and shock to the school and our students were forced to flee to save their lives,” he said.
A statement issued by pro-Al-Shabaab media, including the Islamist group’s mouthpiece Andalus Radio, claimed responsibility for the attack and said the African Union convoy was targeted to protect Western officials.
Thursday’s blasts come four days after a suicide bomber killed a prominent Somali journalist for state media, Abdiaziz Mohamed Guled, in Mogadishu, known as Africa.
It also comes amid allegations of corruption and obstructing elections to seats in the lower house of the federal parliament.
Somalia’s acting National Intelligence and Security Agency boss Yassin Abdullahi Fare was elected to parliament on Thursday in the central Somali state of Galmudug.
Meanwhile, Mogadishu-based independent think tank Heritage Institute for Policy Studies has warned that electoral corruption could lead to political instability in Somalia.
“Somalia’s state-building project could be exposed if politicians’ indirect electoral process is unchecked,” a new report released by the group warned on Thursday.
The Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab has been fighting Somalia’s central government for years, seeking to take power and enforce a stricter interpretation of Islam’s sharia law.
The group frequently conducts violent attacks in Somalia and elsewhere in its war against the Somalia military and African Union-mandated forces that help protect the government.
Sinab Abukar and Jamal Usman contributed to this report.