Four people were killed and nine wounded when a car bomb exploded near a restaurant in central Mogadishu on Thursday, March 7, police said, as the Al-Shabaab jihadist group claimed responsibility.
The blast “was caused by a car loaded with explosives, we perceive that it was parked near a restaurant along the road,” Somali police official Ibrahim Mohamed told AFP.
The restaurant was near a security checkpoint in the Somali capital, not far from the presidential palace. The road in which the blast occurred houses eateries and tea shops.
“The explosion was very heavy, and we could see the smoke and dust overwhelmed the whole area, it was a car bomb,” said witness Ibrahim Farey.
Another, Aisha Hassan, said several vehicles were destroyed and buildings damaged.
Al-Shabaab said it had planted the bomb, claiming in a statement that its “fighters targeted one of the checkpoints of the palace apostates.”
The group is fighting to overthrow the internationally backed government in Somalia, but has also carried out attacks in neighboring Kenya, which has deployed troops as part of the African Union Mission in Somalia.
In August, the U.S. Department of Defense assessed there to be between 3,000 and 7,000 al-Shabaab fighters and 70 to 250 Islamic State Somalia fighters in the Horn of Africa nation.
Earlier this month, at least 20 people died in an attack in Mogadishu which saw Al-Shabaab jihadists battling security forces for nearly 24 hours.
On February 4, al-Shabaab targeted the busy Hamarweyne market near the capital’s municipal district. On January 16, the group attacked an upmarket hotel complex in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, killing 21 people during a day-long siege.
The Shabaab were chased out of Mogadishu in 2011 by the 22,000-strong African Union mission AMISOM, and have had to abandon most of their strongholds, but they still control vast rural areas and remain the key threat to peace in Somalia.
U.S. forces partner with Somali national security forces in counterterrorism operations, and have conducted frequent raids and drone strikes on al-Shabaab training camps throughout Somalia. U.S. Africa Command also works with AMISOM on both advise-and-assist missions as well as air support missions to target al-Shabaab.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, elected in February 2017, has declared a state of war against the group.