Mogadishu car bombs leave ‘scores of civilian casualties’

Two car bombs have exploded at a busy junction in Mogadishu near key government offices, leaving “scores of civilian casualties,” police told Somali state media.

The attack on Saturday occurred five years after a massive blast at the same location killed hundreds of people.

The Somalia National News Agency cited the national police spokesman Sadiq Dodishe on the death toll.

The president, prime minister and other senior officials were meeting on Saturday to discuss combating violent extremism, especially by the al-Qaida-affiliated al-Shabaab group, which often targets the capital.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

An Associated Press journalist at the scene reported seeing the bodies of “many” people, who appeared to be civilians traveling on public transport.

He said the second blast occurred in front of a busy restaurant. Images from the scene showed crushed tuk-tuks and other vehicles.

The director of the Aamin ambulance service told the AP they had collected many killed or wounded people. One of the ambulances responding to the attack was destroyed by the second blast, Abdulkadir Adan said in a tweet.

The Somali Journalists Syndicate said one journalist was killed and two others were wounded.

The attack occurred at Zobe junction, where an al-Shabaab truck bombing in 2017 killed more than 500 people.

Al-Shabaab often targets high-profile locations. Saturday’s blast occurred near the education ministry, which the extremists stormed in 2015, and the foreign ministry.

Somalia’s government has been engaged in a new, high-profile offensive against the extremist group, which the US has described as one of al-Qaida’s deadliest organisations.

Somalia’s president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, has said it is a “total war” against the extremists, who control large parts of central and southern Somalia and have been the target of scores of US airstrikes in recent years.

The extremists have responded by killing prominent clan leaders in an apparent effort to dissuade support for the government offensive.

The Guardian