Death toll in twin car bombings in central Somalia claimed by the Al-Shabab terrorist group has risen to 35, including eight members of a single family, reports cited a senior police officer as saying on Wednesday.
"Most of the dead are civilians. They are women and children," Hassan-Kafi Mohamed Ibrahim, deputy police commissioner of Hirshabelle State, was quoted as saying by the Reuters news agency.
"Only one child survived from a family of nine members. Other families also lost half of their members. The two suicide car bombs burnt many civilian homes to ashes."
Mahas District Commissioner Mumin Mohamed Halane told state radio that one bomb targeted his house and the other hit the home of a federal lawmaker.
Al-Shabab terrorist group claimed responsibility for the deadly attack. Its media office said it targeted "apostate militias and soldiers" and put the number of dead at 87, more than the official figure.
Earlier, a mander of a local militia allied to the government was quoted as saying in reports that 19 people were killed in the bombings.
"Nineteen people, including members of the security forces and civilians, died in the explosions. The terrorists blew up two cars near a military base in Mahas," said Mohamed Moalim Adan.
A police spokesman said the vehicles exploded in a neighborhood full of civilians just after the dawn prayer and the victims included members of security forces, civilians, and journalists who were embedded with soldiers.
Mahas has been at the heart of the Somali government's continuous fight against terrorist groups affiliated with al-Qaeda, which has controlled parts of central and southern Somalia for years.
In July 2022, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud promised his government would launch a full-scale war against terrorist groups in the region.
Al-Shabaab continues to wreak havoc in the African country. Besides bombings, kidnapping local people has been a tactic employed by the group.
Some news sources reported that al-Shabaab militants kidnapped dozens of people on Monday in the village of Beerhana and Dhogor in Hiran.
The kidnappings largely target farmers, who are critical to food production in a country embroiled in drought and potential famine.
Al-Shabaab has been fighting Somalia’s central government for more than 15 years in an attempt to establish its own rule in the African country.
An African Union forces pushed the militants out of the capital Mogadishu in 2011, but the group still controls swathes of the countryside.
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