At least six people were killed in the Somali capital Thursday in a suicide bombing claimed by jihadists at a restaurant near a security checkpoint leading to the presidential palace, a security official said.
“The area was densely populated when the blast occurred and some of the victims, most of them civilians, are seriously wounded,” security official Abdullahi Muktar told AFP.
He said six people died and 12 were injured.
Mogadishu’s Aamin Ambulance Service confirmed the fatalities in a statement sent to journalists, but said the attack had wounded 13.
“The blast was huge, and I saw ambulances carrying wounded victims, some of them with serious injuries,” witness Mohamed Tahlil said.
The Al-Shabaab militant group claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing, saying it was aimed at a bus transporting election delegates which was passing through the area when the attack occurred.
Mogadishu has seen a spate of attacks in recent weeks as Somalia limps through a political crisis caused by long-running disagreements over delayed polls.
Somalia’s president and prime minister have been at loggerheads over the election process, which is more than a year late and has been marred by violence.
Somalia’s elections follow a complex indirect model, whereby state legislatures and clan delegates pick lawmakers for the national parliament, who in turn choose the president.
Voting for the upper house concluded last year, while clan delegates have so far elected around 40 percent of the 275 MPs who sit in the lower house.
The election impasse has worried Somalia’s international backers, who fear it distracts from the battle against Al-Shabaab, an Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist group which has been fighting the weak central government for over a decade.
On Tuesday, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a decision to restrict visas to current or former Somali officials or others “believed to be responsible for, or complicit in, undermining the democratic process in Somalia”.
“This policy will apply to individuals who have played a role in procedural irregularities that have undermined the electoral process, who have failed to follow through with their obligations to implement timely and transparent elections, and who have targeted journalists and opposition party members with harassment, intimidation, arrest, and violence.”
Al-Shabaab fighters were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 after an offensive by an African Union force, but still control vast swathes of rural Somalia from where they launch regular attacks in the capital and elsewhere.