At least eight people have been killed and over a dozen wounded in a car bombing near a school in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, witnesses and officials have said.
The blast happened near a junction in the heart of the city in the early hours of Thursday, triggering a plume of smoke, witnesses said, adding that they also heard gunfire.
The blast was so large that the walls of the nearby school and a hospital collapsed.
“We were shaken by the blast pressure, and then deafened by the gunfire that followed,” said Mohamed Hussein, a nurse at the nearby Osman Hospital. Hussein said he had been pulled from the rubble of a collapsed ceiling. “Our hospital walls collapsed. Opposite us is a school that also collapsed. I do not know how many died,” he said.
Somalia police spokesman Abdifatah Adan was quoted by AFP as saying in a brief statement that eight civilians were killed and 17 others wounded, without giving further details.
Security official Mohamed Abdillahi told AFP the explosion was caused by a car bomb, but added: "We don't know the target of the attack."
Witnesses said a large convoy carrying troops from AMISOM, the African Union force fighting the Al-Qaeda linked Al-Shabab group, was passing through the area when the bomb went off.
"I was close to the area when the blast occurred, there was an AMISOM convoy... passing by," Said Ibrahim told AFP.
The al-Shabab terrorist group frequently carries out gun and bomb attacks against both civilian and military targets, including at busy traffic intersections, hotels, and military bases.
In a recent attack on November 20, at least eight people were killed and more than a dozen others wounded in a bomb explosion that ripped through a crowded market in Somalia’s South West State.
The al-Shabab group has been fighting Somalia’s central government for more than a decade. It also aims to drive out African Union peacekeeping troops. Despite being ousted from large parts of south and central Somalia, al-Shabab continues deadly attacks across the country, which has been ravaged by decades of war and poverty.
The terrorist group has fought successive Somali governments as well as neighboring governments in Uganda and Kenya, the latter of which sent troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the group as part of the African Union forces.
Somalia has faced instability and violence since 1991, when a military government was overthrown.