A car bomb exploded at the gates of a military base in the Somali capital on Saturday, killing at least eight soldiers and injuring 14 others, and the toll is expected to rise, police say.
The extremist al-Shabab group linked to al-Qaeda quickly claimed responsibility through its radio branch, Andalus. The group often targets military sites in Mogadishu and controls large parts of southern and central Somalia, with little sign of being hampered by the coronavirus pandemic.
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Police Captain Mohamed Hussein shared the toll of the attack with the Associated Press, and Col. Ahmed Muse said the bomber hit the April 12 army brigade base near the sports stadium recently. reopened in Warta-Nabadda district.
The reopening of the stadium had been celebrated by the Somali president and others as a sign of the Horn of Africa nation’s attempts to rebuild itself after three decades of conflict and chaos – although mortar explosions in the outside prompted fans to go into hiding.
Al-Shabab has been the target of a growing number of US military airstrikes under President Donald Trump’s administration, with at least 63 airstrikes carried out last year alone.
But the Somalia-based extremist group has shown resilience, recently improving its ability to manufacture explosives and supporting its deadly work by taxing travelers along the country’s main roads and extorting businesses.
As Somalis and returnees from the country’s diaspora continue to invest in renewal, insecurity poses a daily threat and complicates political tensions.
When the prime minister was ousted in a vote of no confidence in parliament last month, the lack of sufficient progress in improving security was cited – as well as disagreements over the timing of a crucial national election scheduled for the beginning of next year.
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Last month’s vote came just days after the president and regional governments, who have had a strained relationship, agreed to hold elections in a timely manner. Somalia aimed to hold its first one-person voice in 50 years, but that prospect is fading.
How such a vote can take place in areas under al-Shabab control remains unclear.