NAIROBI (Kenya) – A massive explosion killed at least eight people and injured nine others in Mogadishu on Wednesday, the ambulance service chief said, the latest attack to hit the Somali capital as the country grapples with internal political conflict and a deepening humanitarian crisis.
The car explosion occurred just before noon on a road leading to Mogadishu International Airport, according to Abdul Qadir Aden, founder of Ambulance Service, Amin Ambulance, the only free ambulance service in Mogadishu. The road also serves a major police academy and a compound where United Nations and foreign government staff and officials live.
The bombing, part of a series of attacks blamed on the al-Qaeda-linked militant group al-Shabab that has swept Somalia in recent months, comes as the country’s leaders struggle to resolve a political crisis that has distracted the government from the deteriorating security situation.
Somaly Mimo, a news website affiliated with Al Shabaab, said the militants claimed responsibility for the attack on Wednesday. She added that the group targeted “a convoy of cars carrying white security officers.”
Government spokesman Mohamed Ibrahim Moallemou denounced what he described as the suicide attack, calling it a “coward”.
“Such terrorist acts will not impede the ongoing peace and development of the country,” he said. wrote on twitter. We must unite in the fight against terrorism.
Details of how the attack was carried out were not immediately available. A Somali police spokesman did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Pictures and videos circulated on social media showed a column of smoke rising from a dilapidated car at the site of the explosion, along with the damaged buildings. Eyewitnesses said that the explosion was heard in many neighborhoods of the city.
The blast hit the country at a time when it is going through a tense election period that has seen increasing infighting among its political leaders.
In December, President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed suspended Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Robley over corruption charges. Mr Roble has refused to step down, claiming that Mr. Mohammed – whose official term expired in February, but has remained in office – is trying to “overturn the government, the constitution and the laws of the country”.
The political struggle has threatened to push the country into violent conflict, like the clashes that broke out in April, and reverse the little peace and stability that Somalia has achieved in recent years.
After weeks of wrangling, Mr. Mohamed on Monday endorsed a plan for the prime minister and other regional leaders to wrap up parliamentary elections by February 25 – more than a year after it was originally planned. On Tuesday, State Department spokesman Ned Price called on Somali officials to complete the long-awaited elections and deal with the divisions that have impeded the process.
“The United States is prepared to take advantage of relevant tools, including potential visa restrictions, to respond to further delays or actions that undermine the integrity of the process,” Price said.
On Thursday, Mr. Rupel’s supporters are expected to demonstrate in the capital to show support for the prime minister, a move that could escalate tensions.
As disagreements over the elections continued, al-Shabab intensified its attacks, particularly in the capital. Over the past two months, the group has carried out car bombings, assassinated government officials and attacked polling stations – efforts that analysts say are aimed at undermining the electoral process.
The militant group has also exploited infighting between Somali political forces by attacking and seizing towns that have not been active for over a decade.
The country’s instability has also been exacerbated by political divisions in the northeastern semi-autonomous state of Puntland, where clashes between government forces – including an elite US-trained unit – have diverted attention from the fight against al-Shabab.
The security situation in Somalia is deteriorating, and parts of the country are facing their most severe season in nearly four decades. An estimated 3.8 million people are acutely food insecure, according to the United Nations, with nearly three million displaced within the country.
Omar S. said. Mahmoud, Somalia analyst with the International Crisis Group: “As long as the electoral cycle and current tensions continue, the attention of the political elite will be more inwardly focused, while other priorities lag.” “This unfortunately creates more space for the youth movement to act.”
Hussein Mohamed Reporting contributed from Mogadishu, Somalia.