A car bomb has exploded outside a military base in the Somali capital, Mogadishu, killing at least 15 people and injuring several others.
Police said that the bomb exploded near Somalia’s Defense Ministry compound in Mogadishu on Sunday.
The car bomb targeted Somalia’s new military chief Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Jimale and senior officials leaving the base in a convoy.
Jimale, who had just been sworn into office, survived the car bomb attack.
Major Hussein Nur, a military official, confirmed that several people had lost their lives in the fatal blast.
“At least 15 people mostly civilians died in the blast,” Nur said, adding, “We do not know the exact figure of casualties. All the people on board the ruined minibus perished. Soldiers and other private security guards also died.”
Abdifitah Halane, a spokesman for Mogadishu’s mayor, said, “What happened here was a painful tragedy – the blast struck two packed minibuses and no one survived.”
“There is flesh and blood everywhere,” he added.
Some media reports said at least five soldiers are among those killed in the explosion.
A huge cloud of smoke billowed over the scene and heavy gunfire was heard in the troubled area.
Somalia’s al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group claimed responsibility for the latest attack.
“The car bomb was targeting senior military officials but by good luck their car was not hit. Their car turned a minute before the blast,” al-Shabab’s spokesman for military operations said.
On Thursday, Somalia’s new President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed declared the country a war zone, instructing the military to prepare a new offensive against al-Qaeda-linked al-Shabab extremists.
The al-Shabab militant group has stepped up its deadly bombings in the capital since the new president took office in February.
The Takfiri militant group was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets seemingly at will in Mogadishu and regional towns.
The extremist group is just one of the challenges facing the new Somali government, which is still struggling to expand its authority beyond the capital and other selected areas.
By Africafrique and agencies